Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dedicated Ears 2011 Most Listened To Chicago Albums/EP

Three years in with this blog, as well as birthing  Dedicated Ears Legal Album/EP List (on which you can find many of the albums below), I consider myself quite lucky. Lucky to have a wife who encouraged me to start this blog in the first place as well as work with me to get me to a lot of shows. Lucky to have met such great artists and humble people as are on this list, as well as countless others. Having friends like August from Novo and  Rebecca from Betta. It's pretty amazing how this big organism that is Chicago music works together for a daily purpose. Thanks to all of the musicians who have sent me music, as well as those who had their music up for free that I randomly ran into. Thanks to all the invites I got for shows, both the ones attended as well as the ones received daily that I can't attend because my job is stay at home dad to 3 monkeys under 5 years old. In the end it's all about the music and I am probably aware of maybe 10% of the music made in this city.  So my hat's off to all of you who make music!


1) Dastardly - May You Never...    Fronted by Gabe Liebowitz, this band has more than a little honky-tonk kick-ass in them. Be it classic cartoon imagery in "Villain" or a humorously self-deprecating song like "Exercise In Self Loathing", Dastardly makes both the lyrics and the instrumentation a fun ride. They WILL make you change your mind about what you think is honky-tonk or country. Gabe's wavering vocals when harmonizing with Sarah Morgan is as good as it gets. You can almost see the tumble weeds blowing by you as you listen to "Traffic", a perfect closer for this album.

  2) Jennifer Hall - In This  Jen Hall exploded on the Chicago music scene this year. Her jazzy "Green and Blue" shows an assured voice and an innate ability to translate her emotions.  The wittily written "Like I Lie You" showcases Jen's ability to really deliver some notes from her heels. That's when the true magic moments appear. She is backed by a very good band and In This establishes them as a force.

 3)  The Bears Of Blue River - Dames    Channeling 50's Doo-wop pop with some kind of excellence are Gavin Wilkinson and The Bears Of Blue River. There is an overall laid-back vocal styling between Gavin and Margaret Alexandra Gard on songs like "Cry Baby". "Blue River" is my favorite. The band has such a full sound on this album. They play off one another really well. You can't help but smile while listening to these songs.

  4) Collages - Maya  Jesse Bustamante is Collages and makes electronic psych-pop music. You've got a good mix of pop-oriented songs like "Circle", and more experimental fare such as "Hemadeus". The reggae-tinged, trippy "Like A Paternal Tree" is my favorite track on this album and has a really nice break in it 2/3 of the way through the song before it builds again. There is some nice attention to composition on this album.  

 5)  Mutts - Pray For Rain  Mike Maimone's voice is front and center on this album, which explores some new ground for these gods of the bottom end.  The growl of "Fool" is Mutts' classic sound and the more experimental "Save Us" is a doomed call from the apocalypse if I've ever heard one. It's nice to see Mike and this really tight band exploring new territory.  "Done Again" is my favorite track, which finds the guys using a little restraint and some really nice percussion. That fade toward the end and the subsequent buildup is magical.

6) Tom Schraeder - Egoiste  If there is one thing I've learned this year, it's don't call Tom a singer-songwriter. Also, he has a disdain for the band Muse. And he just happened to make an album that sounds like it may be a computer constructed album, but it wasn't done that way. "Be Well" is my favorite here and sounds as if it were remixed, only it wasn't. These songs are a departure from Tom's already cool sound. He seems very confident with the switch. 

 7) Save The Clocktower - Carousel  From the  electronic tones of "Drip" to the rock of "You've Got Me" to "Trapped Noise" (which splits the two genres), Jimmy Shenk and company have created some catchy songs. "Far Apart" is my favorite. The mixture of programmed drums and electric guitars make for a bright sound, while the melody suckers you in.

   8) Paper Thick Walls - A Thousand Novels  Eric Michaels and Kate Schell have created a confident bunch of pop songs that cover quite a bit of ground musically. The standout track for me is the beautiful "NyQuil", which features simultaneous dual lead vocals in a throwback to 70's FM radio staples. The introduction of the strings on this song is really nice.

   9) Greg Gibbs - The Lights  How could something so simple be so good? Listen to The Lights and find out. From the acoustic wonder "To Come Undone" to the bouncy, electric-charged "Wasted Plans", this album is full of songs that will be in your head for days after you listen to them. The flashes of electronica, as on "Orwellian Soccer Blues", give this album another dimension. It's amazing to think Greg does this on the side and doesn't play out (his day job is owner of Chicago Bagel Authority restaurants).

  10) Vortis - Things Won't Get Better   Punk done well is always fun times in my book. L. Calvano, J. DeRogatis, C. Martiniano, and T. Tavano play hard-charging punk with an industrial influence.  Definitely check out the 1 min 27 sec wonder of  "Hate Our Condition". This is punk as I remember it, you know, before Green Day.

   11) Yay! Conifers - Mt. Pilchuck Comprised of Lüke and Miranda Rae, who met in college and now are teamed up in Portland making some sweet electro-pop. Miranda's voice works really well with  Lüke's electronic arrangements. "Buy Local" has quite a few musical shifts and is my favorite on this ep.

12) Teenage Rage - the original teenage rage!  The tribe that is Teenage Rage have made a raw sounding gem of an album that reminds you of the 50's for sure. From the turbulent but sweet "tragiccowboy", with Will on vocals, to the prettily sung "oh teenager" by Emme, these songs have a common tone and yet they are different. My favorite is "Windmills", with Will delivering a slice-of-life subject for this song he sings.


Jim from JIP said...

Don't forget about JIP! Year X did great in 2011.

PS. Jennifer Hall is great!

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