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.

Mutts and Hemmingbirds at Beat Kitchen Fri. Sept 24

The Hemmingbirds are fronted by Yoo Soo who wrote and recorded all of the songs on the Hemmingbirds incredible debut Death Wave (my REVIEW). The band sounded great and the guitar really popped live. I spoke with Yoo Soo afterward and he said they have only played out a handful of times. It sure didn't seem like they had played only 4 or 5 times together. See them live, it's a great experience. The album link below is a name your own price download. So if you do download it for FREE , please post the link wherever you can. Help spread the word about the inexhaustible great indie music here in Chicago.

&<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_7">lt</span>;a <span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_8">href</span>="">Death Wave by <span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_9">Hemmingbirds</span>&<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_10">lt</span>;/a>

Thanks for the invite from Mike Maimone who fronts the indescribable Mutts low end force. Plenty of swing an a bit of soul and tons of conviction mark Mutts shows.Every Mutts show I have seen has a different twist. In this show the guys welcomed Yoo Soo from the Hemmingbirs to play violin amidst the growl and prowl of Mutts bottom end rumble. It was interesting dichotomy to have the higher end of the violin in that setting. Of course the violin was played marvelously by Yoo Soo. The Mutts were supporting the release of their great ep The Tells of Parallels (My review HERE). Mike and the guys did a cover of "Little Wing" (Hendrix) to a crowd that was very amped. Great to talk to Mike and the guys afterward. Please download the album below for FREE if you haven't already.

&<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_19">lt</span>;a <span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_20">href</span>="">The Tells of Parallels by Mutts&<span class="blsp-spelling-error" id="SPELLING_ERROR_21">lt</span>;/a>

Monday, October 4, 2010

Not The Best (Spacehog at Cubby Bear)

The good the bad the ugly. First off the good, local all girl rockers The Maybenauts glammed it up with a really good tight set. This is the first time I saw them and they did not disappoint. Thanks to Novo for the kind invite.

The bad, Spacehog. I have their first two albums so I am familiar with them. I thought that this was wildly uninspiring. It could have been worse I suppose they did manage to keep time and play efficiently.

The ugly, the venue. I haven't seen a show there in over 10 years and I certainly haven't missed much. I suppose the same people would fill this "sports bar" whether they played the senseless drivel they were playing before the show or having bands play live . This was sponsored by Q101, which means they are still on the radio dial? I haven't listened to that station in some 4 or 5 years. Thank god for Internet radio and multi-room sound systems. Also the only beer they served during the show was Bud, even though they still sold hard liquor. And to top it off a thoroughly senseless bathroom "attendant" that loudly espoused hygiene tips to everyone who did not tip him.