Friday, December 31, 2010

Dedicated Ears 2010 Most Listened To List

 This year I am sticking with just 2010 release for my most listened to list. For me,  listens is the best way to figure out what the best albums of the year are.  It was a really good year for hip hop and rap and that is reflected below.  If I were to include some other albums I have listened to as much as these, but don't fit the 2010 release date those would be The Black Atlantic, Manipulator Alligator and Turtle Ambulance.

1)  Pretty Little Empire - Reason and Rooms  Second year in a row that this St. Louis four piece is my most listened to album. All they did since last year was add an amazing drummer, delve into indie guitar circa 1990 and crank up the harmonies. Superb song-writing again and  3 of the four members sing lead vocals admirably. That doesn't happen every day does it?

2)  Hemmingbirds - Death Wave Yoo Soo Kim of the Chicago indie band Hemmingbirds  plays everything on this album save for a few drum tracks. Great pop songwriting. The music draws from everything from Pink Floyd to Decemberists.   Non- conventional pop song structures give this album its own sound that keeps you invested in these songs. 

 3) Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy   (Roc A Fella) Amazing that Kanye is continually topping his last album and this album is no different. Less of the club centered songs and more story telling going on here. This gets better with every listen.

4) Carlos Mendez - Depie 
 Folk from Panama that uses Latin rhythms and indie pop as well to make for a relaxed vibe. This album was stuck on repeat for me throughout this past summer.  If you didn't think you liked music in languages other than English this may convince you otherwise. 

 5) The Juliets - The Juliets   (Flat Response Sound) Chamber pop from Detroit that is heavy on the strings.  With influences of Brit pop and indie rock this album also has a bounce on the bottom end that is an interesting mix within the realm of chamber pop. Well thought out lyrics and great production

6) Bullets In Madison - We Became Your Family When You Died
 Chicago bands best to date.  Equal parts ambient and shoe gaze with a touch of post-rock. These songs help to make a cohesive album that is flush with emotive arrangements that demand to be heard over and over again.

7) Grinderman - Grinderman 2  (Anti/Epitath) Thanks God for Nick Cave's relentless drive as Grinderman is what he does in his "off" time. This time around it's less punch you in the face and more drag you on the floor. I am very careful not to say this is a more mellow album than their first but it does rely on a groove more and has less of the loud punches.  He has separated himself from many of his peers with the improvement in quality as well as keeping the sound very relevant.

8) Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring (Kill Rock Stars) What a beautifully sorrow sound this album has. The strings are are used to make washes of emotion that are so addictive to listen to. The vocals and lyrics come from  an honest place and make for such a full sound with the strings.

9) Angelique Kidjo - Oyo  (Razor & Tie) Benin artist Kidjo commands presence not only with her big voice but with her ability to seamlessly wander between American soul and traditional African music. Even an appearance by Bono on a track could take away from this album's goodness.

10) Pelican - What We All Come To Need  (Southern Lord)   Chicago instrumental metal stalwarts make grown up metal that both headbangers and casual listeners can listen to and enjoy.  The build up on some of these songs is pretty heady stuff.

11) Cassis Orange - Kashisu Orenji  (Grip Tapes)  Autumn Ahinger is Cassis Orange who is based in Chapel Hill.  This EP of electronic pop gems reminded me a bit of Tune - Yards the first time I heard it.  The vocals are spot on and the keyboards are great. 

12) Crash Collect (formerly Elle Lefant)  - Pulse Short and sweet EP by Poughkeepsie based duo that is a powerful brand of electronic soul. Out-sized vocals and playful electronic pop make for quite a pairing.

13) Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid    (Bad Boy) I got this album a bit late in the year. I suspect that if I listened to it for another month that it would jump into my top 5. This is genre bending at it's best. Janelle manages to wear many musical hats and wear them all very well. 

14) We Were Promised Jetpacks - These Four Walls (Fat Cat Records)

 Sublime Scottish indie rock that is so damn catchy.

15) Joe Harbison - Traditions  ( Joe is from Kentucky and is quite a prolific musician.  He has unique vocals that I enjoy. He is another one man band and plays everything you hear as well as writes composes these songs.

16) Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer (Radiculture/Elektra) Another album I got later in the year that could have climbed much higher. Awesome horns, the "F# You " song that is a viral video hit and a really good Band Of Horses cover ("No One's Gonna Love You) . Cee Lo gets it right and doesn't take himself too seriously and that is a page other hip hop acts would be well served to embrace.

17)  Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two : Return Of The Ankh (Mowtown) I like her as a neo soul artists originally and now enjoy her even more as an experimental soul songstress. Though not as experimental as Vol. 1 this album is really good.

18) Magic Man - Real Life Color (Arcade Sound LTD.) Lo fi electronic pop from Boston. So, so addictive these songs are.  

19) The Roots - How I Got Over  (Def Jam) You can almost get complacent in thinking every new album by the Roots is going to be a great album. It does seem to work out that way doesn't it? So this is another album long and beats and thoughtful raps by guys who know who they are, Philly's finest.

20) Yawn - Yawn EP   Chicago psyche-pop loaded with hook and a wide array of sounds.  Do you like your tribal beats with your psyche rock? Then you will love this.

21) Yellow Ostrich - The Morgan Freeman EP  Oddly enough, The Morgan Freeman EP was written all about... Morgan Freeman, well his Wiki page anyways. With such irrevrant beginnings is it any wonder that this is actually very good? Quite an ear the band has for melodies.Thanks to The Waiting Room Radio Shows web-cast for the tip!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tom Schraeder - Once Lace Now Cotton (2010 Township Records)

 Once Lace Now Cotton find Tom adding a more textured sound than his 2008 album Lying Through Dinner, which was really good but more of a straight ahead folk sound. Once Lace Now Cotton invites visions of the ol' wagon trail, like on the whistle in and wandering guitar on the album opener "to you my friend...' that also finds Tom's vocals heartfelt and aching.  This will be the one track you will whistle and hum over and over again.

"Should Have Stuck With Cotton"  features loose percussion and some effective harmonies. I like how this song swells toward the end and incorporates an accordion as well as female vocals.

"Carry On" is a bit of a departure from the rest of the album with it's alt-country sound, a full band and more straight ahead song construction. The song also finds Tom letting his vocals out and I imagine it will be the highlight of this album played live. His vocals have a chameleon quality where he seems every bit at home singing this as well as his lo-fi sounding songs.

Tom's vocals have a bit of a magical quality that can be incredibly emotive without the big bombastic displays. They are restrained and nuanced to give his storytelling lyrics a proper voice. These songs have an old soul feel. There are some songs with lo-fi production like "Don't Take My Woman" here as well as others that are cleanly produced but still feel lo-fi. I think this lo- fi effect goes great with Tom's storytelling and vocal style. The overall tone of this album has an updated vintage feel to it. Please check this album out because it deserves to be heard.

Along those lines, Tom will be playing at Schubas tomorrow night, Tues Dec 28th. I plan on being there and look forward to seeing these songs live. Until then here is a bit of promotion for that show by Tom.

Tom Schraeder & His Ego - 'Egoiste Ball' from BAILOUT Pictures on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Betta's Beats and Blogs - Wow (Subterranean Dec 18)

Rebecca's vision of this show came off to a T.  Thanks again to Rebecca and all of the folks at Betta as well as the other bloggers for making this show memorable. It was a full house and Rabble Rabble, Radar Eyes, Hollows and White Mystery all killed it.  White Mystery's set was one big happy wave of guitar and drums. Wow!   It was great to meet some of these bloggers that had been just names before. The house was full of band members too. I met quite a few enthusiastic musicians like the guys in Pinto and The Bean. It was great catching up with Rebecca and also Yoo Soo from Hemmingbirds. I love seeing shows at Sub T. Great sound, balcony and reasonably priced beer makes for great shows there.

 Keep an eye out for Dedicated Ears Presenting a show on Jan 18th for Betta Promotions at Double Door with Mutts, Brontosaurus and Zach Pietrini and The Broken Bones. Its a FREE show and you will not want to miss this line-up.  Betta has quite a few great shows in Jan so keep an eye out.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Betta Beats and Bloggers Show Sat Dec 18th Subterranean

 Rebecca over at Betta Promotions keeps coming up with great ideas for promoting shows. This time around she has invited Dedicated Ears and 16 other blogs that are based here in Chicago to be a part of her Beats and Bloggers Show this Sat at Subterranean.  Rebecca has done interviews with the bloggers and is using them to promote this show see it below.  Thanks to Rebecca and Betta for the invite. I will be at the show it will be a great time. Come hang with people who love music and see a great show.

Check out the band links below for the awesome bands that will play this show.

White Mystery


Rabble Rabble

Radar Eyes
Betta Promotions and Loud Loop Press present...
Beats & Blogs; A Musical Hotspot

Saturday December 18th, 2010
Subterranean 2011 North Avenue
17+ | doors @ 10pm | $10 flat



Monday, December 13, 2010

Dastardly Shines at Schubas

(thanks to Matt Ginger for the cool photos)

 Jared Bartman opened and used his unique delivery of his storytelling in song form. It was interesting contrast to seeing him do a singer songwriter set alone. The songs as played on this night were true to his album, Jersey Shore.  It's always a pleasure to see and talk with Jared.

Chaperone was on next, as I promised in my preview post of the show, they kicked ass 2 minutes at a time. I was talking with them before the show and they were discussing a play list that some of the band members thought may be too long and they finally decided that they would just figure it out. They have a relaxed vibe live while ripping through their songs at a break neck pace. That comes from them playing off one another  very well and the overall sound has a thunderous balance of bottom end of tom drums, played by Thom coincidentally. The group jam with Dastardly's band almost broke the fire code limit on stage, but was a really sweet moment on the ears. Thanks to Chaperone for the press pass BTW! They may play like rock starts n=but don't act like it. Very good folks they are.

Glittermouse was next and gave a high energy performance that was eaten up by the crowd.

 It was time for the headliner (for the first time) Dastardly took the stage and played with the frenetic energy that is the hallmark of Dastardly's shows. The band is really settling in to playing these songs   May You Never....their awesome new album which is available at their live shows.

A list of things that happened during their set :

1) Cover of the Jeff Buckley song "Lover You Should Have Come Over"which showcased Gabe's vocals and the band's ability to do justice to a great musician.

2) Gabe threw a tambourine to the crowd. Aggressive Western music indeed.

3)  There always seems to be vocal drunk folks who follow the band around, but they handle it with aplomb. It helps that Gabe and company seemed very well plied themselves. That always adds to the interesting factor but I have yet to see it detract from the sound.  Just as it should be.

4) Toward the end of their set there seemed to be 30 people on stage. Maybe that's how they get those big sounds.

In short follow their exploits on Facebook and you can alert others on the East coast about the bands impending invasion/tour.

It was a bunch of fun hanging out with my friend Paul and his friends as well as Rebecca from Betta Promotions and August from Novo. This was a happening place to be as I saw so many familiar faces and got to talk to almost all of them. 

Next up for me Betta Promotions forward thinking show Beats and Bloggers Show on Dec 18th at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dastardly Record Release Show for This Thur at Schubas

Dastardly will be leaving Chicago soon to tour the states, so catch them now! They won't play here again until March! This will be their first headlining show and they are also releasing their record May You Never... They put on an excellent show and Gabe will tell you the "sweatshirt " story if you ask him nice, just be sure to specify if you want the adult version of the story or not. I am lucky enough to have booked Jared Bartman for a songwriter showcase and his nuanced vocal delivery that gives heft to the "old Soul" feel to his music. Chaperone will kick your ass 2 minutes at a time. They are a must see live. I have seen Glittermouse play and their show is a high energy one. So you cannot lose with this line-up. After seeing these bands play live I suggest you get tix before hand.  Welcomes
Jared Bartman

Schubas, Thur Dec.9  at   8pm      18+     advance tix for $6  HERE

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dastardly - May You Never... (Release Show Schubas Dec 9!)

Dastardly are:
Gabe Liebowitz - vocals, acoustic guitar
Sarah Morgan - vocals, accordion, percussion
August Sheehy - bass, vocals
Patrick Lyons - electric guitar, pedal steel, mandolin, vocals
John Humbracht - banjo, harmonica, electric guitar
Andy Taylor - drums

May You Never... solidifies Dastardly high up on the band list of the thriving roots movement in Chicago. The band manages to incorporate Gabe's point the finger at himself first approach to writing which comes off as alternating between earnest and funny. The band has a varied sound that incorporates banjo by John Humbracht, mandolin, slap steel and accordion.

"Villain" features rolling snares by Andy Tayloy, banjo and simple guitar picking to accentuate the cartoon visioned lyrics of the the villain near the railroad tracks. Sarah's voice complements Gabe's tone nicely. Also the mandolin is a nice little touch on this track too. Towards the end their is a noise filled outro, just before the outro normally starts. I liked that noisy bit a lot, let's you know this album isn't going to settle in and be a typical folk/American album.

On "Exercise In Self Loathing" there is a really cool bass line from August and the rhythm veers toward country land but is saved by Patrick's guitar and Gabe's. "I've been wakin' up lazy and bored, I show up with a smile but she just says he looks insecure".  This track has some cool vocal harmonies. Also towards the end there's a nice bridge with some cool effects.

"Crystallized" has a boot stompin' pace and some great vocals by  Sarah. The descending mandolin line by Patrick here plays against the rest of the song nicely. I love that the bridges on these songs, as in this song, are a bit unconventional and give the songs a bit of a different face than you would be accustomed to with roots music.

"Middleground" is my favorite on this album.  It features poignantly self effacing lyrics on top of a really good songs.  "This guy I know has gained esteem, this prestigious music scene, all the newspapers and websites write him up, and he just put out a song that about how much I suck", Gabe says. Now I have done a write up on the guy Gabe's talking about (a slight hint). Gabe tends to take the high road here though instead of making this a "Tu Pac" vs "Biggie" situation in the world of indie music! A commendable approach by Gabe.

"Morning Blue" is the power ballad, of sorts,  on this album. Not only some lovely vocals by Sarah but also some nice pedal steel by Patrick. The composition of this song is really nice. It would have been easy to overdue some of the effects on this songs but everything is in just the right amounts. This includes the singing saw by Sarah Holtschlag that is in just the right amounts on this track. Another reprise, this time in the traditional spot.

 May You Never... lives and breathes in it's unconventional touches, from Gabe's songwriting material to the lap steel, to the tempo changes towards the end of the song. At the heart of all these songs are really good musicians making an unforgettable album. The unconventional approach will appeal to a lot of people who wouldn't normally enjoy Americana" or folk. If you are one of these people, check this album out. If you are one of the other people... still check this album out!

Thanks to August at Novo who is doing promotion for Dastardly!

They have an album release show on Dec 9th at Schubas with Chaperone and Jared Bartman, one hell of a line-up. I will be there. After that show, look on their myspace for album release info.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dedicated Ears Songwriter Showcase #4 at Cafe Ballou Chicago

It was time for another songwriter showcase at the always accommodating Cafe Ballou. Quite a turnout we had, more than 50 folks came out to see the acts and have some food and coffee drinks. It was great again to talk to so many musicians in the crowd.  We had a special helper / dancer as well as some great sets starting with Brendan Losch who I saw play ukulele for the first time. He plays this Sun at Empty Bottle, check him out (bring canned goods for charity!)

Next up was Magic Ian who reminded me of a mix of Nick Cave with the storytelling of Utah Phillips. "Junkyards Of Wyoming" was a punk timed ditty that was a crowd leaser.  Magic Ian also offered this precursor, "I am going to try to break the blues with my next song "Causeway Blues" which technically too fast to be blues, which is the joke in of itself isn't it? Loved his story telling abilities as well as playing and singing.

Teenage Rage switched it up again, playing slow to mid tempo songs as well as the beautiful violin parts by Miranda Rae who has played a few Dedicated Ears shows. The always personable Teenage Rage informed the crowd " I am going to play two songs... well half songs, they aren't finished yet, together they make one song right".


Gabe from Dastardly was next up. Always the
crowd pleasing performer/emcee/drunk wrangler
did not disappoint with any of his jobs. He
played "The Dramatic Cowboy Song" which
everyone watching and listening loved.


Robert Reid was up next and played some really
nice guitar as well as playing a waltz timed song.
Yay for that!

Rachael Eve played next with Miranda Rae on violin again. Rachael's set was very cool and took the drunks in the crowd in stride.

 Gavin from The Bears Of Blue River played a solo set. I really like the way he writes and sings.

Last was the dancing and singing talents of
Matthew Merryweather. 

Leafbird played a dreamy set of folk with some
cool harmonics on the guitar.
The set felt intimate.

Anthony 'T-Bird ' Magera was up next playing some blues flavored singer songwriter songs that
were long on emotion, which is why I like to
watch him play.

Thanks to all of the great musicians who played again and to the size-able crowd.  Again, thanks to Kosro and the cool people at Cafe Ballou for staying late. Look for info on the next show on the Dastardly or Brendan Losch home pages on Facebook.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Fervor at The Metro! (Fri Nov 12)

 I love it when I go to the classic venues , like Metro, and an all Chicago band bill elicits a wild crowd reaction for all of the acts. This was the case this past Fri at Metro.  Out of the gate first was Dastardly, who I had never seen the band perform with the full compliment of members. As usual Gabe was incredibly personable as well as funny.  The band was louder and the sound more varied than I had seen before.  It was great to see hear the accordion in the mix with the electric guitar. Very cool big sound. They played an amped set that was set the bar very high for the evening.

Next up was Chaperone. The bottom end rumble came from both drummer Thom's tom-toms as well as a bonus tom out on the floor. The band was loud and thoroughly invested in the set. The crowd reacted nuttily and sang the lyrics to their short and not so sweet songs.

Jon Drake and the Shakes probably had some people from the crowd playing in their set at one time. They has a full big sound. After seeing a few Drakes at the songwriter show a few weeks back it was nice to see/hear the full compliment of the Drakes. Also, it was great to see and hear Jon as he had a n accident a few days ago and had just gotten out of the hospital before this show. I am very happy to report he is doing ok!

Headliner Aktar Aktar manged to actually increase the intensity of the crowd. Their brand of indie/prog rock with bouncing hooks was eaten up by their hardcore fans who screamed throughout.

Thanks to Rebecca and Betta Promotions for the invite. As is par for the course for her shows it featured really good bands and an excited full crowd. Can't wait for the Dec 19th blogger show with her at Subterranean!

 I am fortunate to not only see these great band but to hang with them as well. It was cool catching up with Thom and Chaperone as well as Gabe and the whole band and my friend. Those people do all exist. I thought they may have been a figment of Gabe's imagination. Great sound at Metro, which I have come to expect. Then there's the beer prices. I kidded the bartender by asking if he had any specials and wave his  hands at the taps and said "every day deals" to which I said "that's a subjective term to use".  Yet the sound there is really worth it. Next time I'll stay in Gingerman before the show a little longer. Love that juke-box in there. And yummy beer on tap.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Aktar Aktar, Jon Drake and The Shakes, Chaperone, and Dastardly at Metro Fri. Nov.12 Metro


 I have been fortunate enough to have seen/and or booked both Dastardly and Jon Drake (with a few of his shakes at the time) in the past few months. So they are very good live and worth the trip to this show all by themselves. I have been meaning to see Aktar Aktar ( FREE download below) and am really glad I will get to see them now. I have a review of the short n' sweet Cripple King ep by Chaperone ( FREE download below). It will be cool to see their sub 3 minute folk rock songs take flight live. I am pretty sure that  debauchery of some sort will be on display at the Metro next Friday and possibly by multiple bands on this bill. You should come on out and see it for yourself.  Thanks to Rebecca at Betta Promotions who is putting this shindig on.


Show Tix Details:
$11 day of show / 18+ / Doors: 8PM / Show: 9PM
($8 day of show with a flyer or metro text)

2 for the price of 1!!! @ only $6!
password: betta

Chaperone - Cripple King ep. (bandcamp name your price $0 minimum)

Madame et monsieur 's de Chaperone :
Shaun Paul
Miles Doornbos
Thom Des Enfants
Shaylah Kloska
Mark Sheridan
Mary Spadaro

In full disclosure the label below this post says the band is  "fun to drink with" which I have.  It was good to meet most of the band and get a feel for them. It beats doing a review of people I haven't met or seen(which is a necessity in these digital days).  I had already been listening to Cripple King EP before I met the band and Gabe from Dastardly. It is always a blast to talk to people who are as hopelessly smitten by music as I am. Now the serious part, the review...

The most immediate thing that struck me about this album is the "live" sound production here. The vocals are without embellishment and that makes this a more organic release. This album does it's business in less than 14 minutes. There is something to be said for not over doing bridges and choruses and just tell the stories succinctly like Chaperon does on Cripple King. This album has the feel of the country in it, not necessarily Country music but the laid back earthen vibe that come from people who do not dwell in cities. 

"Fed On Coal" is an upbeat piece of pop goodness that utilizes a simple driving drum beat that is punctuated by the dual lead vocals that give this a more immediate feel.   This song is instantly recognizable.

 The mono production on "Thomas"  is right at home with the music that is an update of fifties pop music  featuring the jangly guitar riff and the shouted chorus .

 "Witches and Sailors" instantly reminds me of a looser and edgier Grant Lee Buffalo. Really nice harmonies on this track.

The closer "Waltzing Topside" has a, take me down to the river to be baptised, feel to it. A perfect way to end this EP.

Thanks to the band, they have made this a name your price download. So if you have some dough to throw their way for the EP then please do. They deserve. If you don't, and still download the album for free, please share it with everyone you can in places like  fb etc. They will also be playing a show this Fri Nov 12th at Metro. I will be there please come on out, you may get a chance to share a drink with the band too.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Jared Bartman - Jersey Shore

Jared Bartman uses a nuanced vocal style on Jersey Shore that evokes the likes of Ed Harcourt. After listening to this quite a few times it is clear that Jared is an old soul, which is a great thing. These songs are a complete piece of work that are cognoscente of one another and treat each other kindly.

His subject matter for songs comes from a variety of places. "I Shall Not Care", the opening track, is adapted from a Sarah Teasdale poem of the same name. The track has a slinky vibe to it.

"A Conjugal Scene" is waltz-timed gypsy flavored trip. Megaphone Voice, Accordion, Smith-Corona Typewriter, Ukulele, Contra Alto Clarinet, Clarinet, Tablas, Frame Drum, Shakers, Cajon, and Glockenspiel build quite an organic sound that you don't hear every day.

The old soul that crafted these songs has put a lot of attention to small details and sound. Slight embellishments make a big impact when there isn't a wall of noise in front of you. There is a cinematic quality to these songs in the way they tell stories. The instrumentation is mixed just right with Jared's strong song writing and his ability to see the bigger picture for the overall sound of this cool album. I really enjoyed hearing multiple songs in Waltz and Polka time signatures.

I had the good fortune to help book Jared for a Dedicated Ears Song-Writer Showcase at Cafe Ballou a few weeks back and was as impressed with his performance there as I am with this album. See him live! Jared also has a cool ep out, I Refute Technology.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dedicated Ears Songwriter Showcase #3 Coverage : Cafe Ballou 10.22.10

Another successful showcase at the friendly host spot, Cafe Ballou. We had so many acts that I had to try to spread the video memory around some. I was all out of film by the time Gia Margaret took the stage unfortunately. Rest assured her set was really good. Though we had 10 acts we still got the show done in less than three hours. You can check the performances out below. Thanks to everyone who played! It was a blast talking to them as well. Come see the next showcase on Nov 19th at Cafe Ballou. Come for the food, stay for the music!

Thanks again to Khosro and his staff at Cafe Ballou (939 N Western Ave Chicago) who are always great. Try a sandwich or salad and some coffee drinks as well. It has a very homey quality. Warm and embracing. Go see for yourself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Waiting Room Radio Show and Dedicated Records (sadly not my label)

In a bit surreptitiousness I came across the Dedicated Records Net Label with the help of The Waiting Room Radio Show, a very cool podcast. I don't get to listen to that many pod-casts because of my 2 music blogs (read as addiction) and booking shows here in Chicago. But, I checked out The Waiting Room and really loved it. The music is off the radar stuff that still has pop songs at the center that is embellished with the likes of indie pop, rock, alt rock. It's based in Cardiff UK and the local music scene is the jumping off point of music they play. They do manage to play some tunes from almost all over. I am very excited that they will also be playing the new Pretty Little Empire album Reasons and Rooms. So now you know they have good taste and you can check them out.

Dedicated Records has a Bandcamp page where you download about 20 or so albums. Music styles are indie pop, folk, rock and instrumental with a tad of electronic thrown in. This is a very cool net-label with FREE downloads. So check the link out and peruse their offerings. Below are a few of the ones I downloaded. I love the Bandcamp players, a music bloggers best friend. Here's hoping all bands end up on Bandcamp.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dedicated Ears Singer Song-Writer Showcase at Cafe Ballou

Oct 22
This is ALL AGES
BYOB ( there is a store 1 block W. of the show on Western)
Great food and coffee drinks are available!
Cafe Ballou 929 N. Western

This installment of Dedicated Ears Presents A Singer Song-Writer Showcase is at the home like confines of Cafe Ballou again. Thanks again to them for being such great hosts. Bring an appetite to the show and they can help you out. The line-up this time is Dastardly (Gabe), Teenage Rage, Brendan Losch, Bill Tucker and His Friends, Kmang Kmang, Arthi Meera and Glittermouse (who have a free ep download at their site). These shows are a great place to see and hear every nuance of the performers. Everyone is respectful of the artists, as it should be for a singer song-writer showcase. And, you still have plenty of time to go out after-wards as this will be done around 10pm. Thanks again to Brian Fitzgerald ( for this classic poster. Thanks to Gabe, Brendan and Teenage Rage who all do these shows as cool performers but also with picking out bands and securing this location.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Musikanto - Ghost Pain

I had the good fortune of booking Mike (Musikanto) for one of my singer songwriter shows at The Chopin. He played with and upright bass player and had Sarah Holtschlag sing with him on a few songs. The highlight for me was the "To See You One More Time", which comes from his album Ghost Pains. It's a bouncing lover's lament about realizing he will not see this woman any more. 'Starting not to need you anymore. I got to bed and tell myself goodnight, but when the leaves fall from the sky and the water swells up my eyes i'll be right home to see you one more time'. Another album cut to check out is "Atomic Walls" has some really nice finger picking on the guitar and Mike's phrasing is slightly different when he sings slower songs on this album. The slight vibrato of his vocals that gets lost on the more straight ahead alt country boot stompers. "Flowers and Singing Bees" incorporates some horns and departs from some of the other production on the album to a good effect. I guess I got spoiled seeing Mike in the stripped down version where his voice was front and center. Listen to this album a few times and some of the melodies are sure to stick. I am looking forward to what Mike does on the next album.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Greg Dulli, Violins, Cellos, John Curley, (Double Door 10.14.10)

My wife and I have seen Greg in recent years playing on 2 tours with Twilight Singers as well as with Mark Lanegan in the goth trudge of Gutter Twins. So there were a few strange things to note about this show. Greg took the stage in the 11 o'clock hour, not past the witching hour which he has the other times. In this stripped down version of the songs there was less of an emphasis on the gloom of some of the songs and more an attempt to showcase the lyrics. Greg played acoustic guitar and had cello, violin and bass to accompany him. Definitely a shift from his previous performances. For me, this worked, but I wonder what this sound would be if he would not have had the acoustic guitar and stuck with the strings. I think they canceled each other out a bit. The cello and violin are inherently more emotive instruments alone than the acoustic guitar. But I applaud the attempt to keep it fresh. I think the main idea was to showcase Greg's impressive song-writing, which sometimes is lost because his vocal delivery is so instant and overpowering. Greg played a good mix of songs from his solo effort Amber Headlights, as well as Twilight Singers' songs. Halfway through I would say this quieter sound had worked well... until he introduced the guest bassist, John Curley. Yes that John, the same that played in Afghan Whigs with Greg. Now the crowd was really amped and started chanting John's name. One would expect Dulli fans to know full well who John Curley is and realize why this had turned into a memorable show at this point. They easily slipped into several Whigs songs and some other songs as well, including my favorite song of the evening "Bonnie Brae". They also played a cover of Bjork's "Hyperballad".

Toward the end someone fainted up front. Go figure, the temperature in there was bearable and they have the fancy big fan above the audience at Double Door now. I remember feeling faint at a metal concert there in the summer once. Greg asked if they were okay and then said he needed "a clean-up in aisle 4".

The band left the stage and the crowd kept the constant cheer that started when Greg introduced John. After a handful of minutes spent cheering loudly they came back out and played a few more songs for which John joined the band again.

This show proved Greg understands he can't always be the dark anguished figure in the corner. Don't get me wrong, I like that Greg, but I also love some of the more nuanced music he has put out as well. I will always remember this show for John and I think Greg was well served to add John half-way through. He knew the way the crowd would react and this boost ran high till the end of the encore. It's obvious there is a lot of magic with the paring of John and Greg and it leads Whigs fans to logically question whether we will see a fully re-formed Afghan Whigs band in the near future. Up to a few years ago, I would have said an emphatic 'no' with not only the words that Greg said about a reunion but also with the way he said them. He was sure that there would be nothing to be added by them reforming. This always surprised me a bit because the quality of Greg's musical ventures, as well as Staggering Statistics and Moon Maan - the other Whigs spin-off bands were also very good. These guys never seemed from my outside position to be really angry with one another. They seemed to be one of the few bands that truthfully said musical differences made them stop making music. We all know usually there are bigger broken relationship issues that contribute to the music stopping. Maybe the band gets together again and gives the old motor a try to see how she runs. I certainly hope so.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vortis, Royal Pines, Burlesque...Oh My!

I finally got to see Vortis live at The Viaduct Theater. It's good thing I didn't blink because I may have missed them. Classical succinct punk that takes no prisoners every 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Jim said afterwords that, "We don't believe in stage banter". The three piece was tight and needed no set list. Just a sound cue from Jim's drums after the last song ended. They definitely indicated some industrial (Big Black) influences when they broke the punk down and did their version of slowing down. It's always cool to see a punk show where the band cares that the crowd gets the whole picture, like Vortis did. I have been to punk shows where it is so sloppy and unrecognizable, and the band hangs their hat on that. So Vortis rarely slowed but was completely understandable. They were accompanied on stage by Viva La Muerte and the ladies of Hot and Heavy which was a sexy/titillating (not slutty) take on go go dancing/burlesque. The mix of the dancers and punk band brought back good memories of seeing Los Straightjackets and their go go dancers. The headliner was the Royal Pines, who played an up tempo Americana version of of punk that was sprinkled with slide guitar. It was very interesting.

It was a bunch of fun to expound on the evil wiles of Clear Channel with Jim after the show. We talked about the most sweetheart deal of sweetheart deals that Lollapalooza received from the city of Chicago. I have been following him chronicle this story on his blog. This story never ends, much like the rest of the malfeasance that Chicago's city and Cook County are stricken with. Go see Vortis play, but don't be 5 minutes late, you may miss 3 songs. Also, follow Jim's blog and get his stories in your in-box like I do. They never disappoint.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pretty Little Empire - Reasons and Rooms (Release Show Nov. 27)

Pretty Little Empire :

Justin Johnson - Vocals, guitar
William Godfred - Guitar, vocals
Wade Durbin - Bass vocals
Evan O'neal - drums, vocals

Pretty Little Empire's second LP Reasons and Rooms manages to broaden their musical horizon from folk to include early 90's indie punch guitar and post punk. The songwriting is as good as ever and this album finds the band experimenting a little more with new musical textures that still adhere to the tenants of this band's sound. The addition of Evan on drums has made the sound more complex and seems to give Wade some more places to take his bass lines. Justin, Will and Evan all sing commendable lead parts on songs making the overall sound varied. It's fun to try to tag each ones vocals. Also listen for some of the mixes that have dual lead vocals with one persons voice slightly out front, which requires vocal abilities that all of the members posses.

"Now Is The Time" begins with a nice acoustic riff and features great harmonies. This foreshadows the guitar to come. I love how they switch up the pairings of band members on the harmonies. Great opener that doesn't give away the surprise to come.

"Dakotas" is a b-side from the first PLE album Sweet Sweet Hands. It's really cool to see the difference in the song. It's a much fuller song on this record that utilizes Evan's driving drum part and Will's big guitar to make it a quicker louder song. Yet it keeps the shouted chorus and bouncing rhythm that made this song so damn catchy when I heard it as a b-side.

"Island (nc)" feature Evan on lead vocals and some beautiful harmonies that make it a really good song, but I am not sure that the song fits with the rest of the feel of the album. I think the feel of this is more of a southern rock feel.

Strains of the old PLE meet with the new PLE on "Let's Say 'I do'". Love the bounce of this song. Some Sugar style guitars and Justin Johnson's interesting cadence make for a song that will run in your head again and again. The trumpet, played by Jim Manley, gives this song a nice dynamic.

Justin sent me the first version of "Perfect Hearts" that he recorded on his i-phone. Evan's keys and glockenspiel make this a really full sounding version. The break toward the end is really nice and builds to the nice blissful level of a dreamy pop sound that is augmented by Cathie Degler's cello.

"Wasted Days" showcases Evan on drums. I am a sucker for the drums here. Near marching snare roll at the beginning gives way to Evan's controlled jazz bursts. Will's post punk guitars and Wade's thumping bass line make this the highlight of their live set. I wish they had added a little of the hoarse emotive vocals that I have seen them use when playing this song live. It's such a big sound and everyone is in the pocket. So good!

On "Cinnamon Toast" Will sings lead. Even though Justin and Will vocal range is similar, the inflection and cadence are indeed different. This is a post rock song of the first order. Jangly guitars with simple repeating rhythms make for a larger than life sound. Amazing to think this is the same band that put out Sweet Sweet Hands. Again the driving bottom here with Evan playing on and off the cymbals adds another dimension.

Because I was such a big fan of the first album, I was pretty sure I would love this one, and I do. But the few surprises on this album like "Morning's Been Hard" are songs that are surprising and it's exciting to hear the new direction. On this track Evan sings lead and plays keys. The single guitar notes along with the keys make a complete thought expressed which obviously needs input from everyone in the band to achieve the greatness that this song does. Sublime and dense with simple instrumentation this song has everything in the perfect amounts.

"Reasons Are Wrong" is a nod for sure to PLE's roots. It's another song I heard Justin play as an i-phone demo. Such a bright wash of sound was added to this album version. "Don't take anything from a hand that reaches out for you, don't you understand anything anymore" Justin and Evan sing. The trumpets and piano are nice touches.

The closer is "You Can't Have It All" which features screaming guitars and Justin's pleading vocals. "I don't think it's right , when we fight all the time, and you don't want to say where we are". Such simple words that can have multiple implications. This is another song I wished that the vocals on the chorus were allowed to over modulate a bit. It would add to the insistence of Justin's delivery. Maybe I am spoiled with seeing this live and am just trying to hear the live version. So then I can only give this song a 4.75 out of 5.

So this is a powerful follow up album for these really nice guys from St Louis. I listen to so many albums and like so many albums that sometimes they bleed into one another, but this album truly stands on it's own. They have infused their folk/Americana/Western sound with early 90's guitar which is a win and win. They have managed to incorporate the different sounds seamlessly and make their own sound. You can hear hints of yet another shift in their sound that may lean toward the experimental and not rely on classic instrumentation alone. I consider myself fortunate to be friends with these guys and be able to hear all of their various music projects while they are being made. I am thankful to them for that and look forward to the next album!

Their album release show will be at Firebird Theater in St Louis on Nove. 27.The album will be for sale after that date. Keep an eye on their fb page for mare info. Or check out my info, I will have it just before the show.

Thanks to my editor in chief and just chief in general, Kathy.