Roo & The Howl-”Give Me Time”

April 15, 2014 Leave a comment

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I’ve heard a good number of Roo & The Howl songs over the past year or so, but none have been quite as compelling as “Give Me Time.” From the Goldfrapp-ish opening to the random fits of guitar in the opening verse, the song is never what you expect it to be. What could have been a fun, poppy jaunt turns into a loud, brash ballad with Bekah Wagner’s voice whispering above the banging piano.

Wagner hails from the Rocky Mountains, but her voice reminds me of another songstress from my region here in the midwest, Milwaukee’s Heidi Spencer. Both singers have a way of eluding to how big their voices can go without actually going there. It’s a device most never bother to learn. There’s a depth of intimacy that can be reached when the listener knows you’re holding something back, and Wagner uses it effectively here.

Roo & The Howl is dropping a full-length record, Me/We, on May 20th. If you like what you hear above, you can purchase the song on Bandcamp. While there you can also pre-order the album either in the digital format, or on vinyl.

Tangerine-”Nothing Better”

April 14, 2014 Leave a comment

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When I saw the name Tangerine pop up in my mailbox last week, for some reason I kept thinking of Tangerine Dream. Not entirely sure why, but it was a couple days before I had a chance to listen to it. I was pretty disappointed at first-still thinking it was the German electronic group that scored Ridley Scott’s Legend. But after a couple minutes I started to enjoy this new Tangerine band’s sound.

It’s got that same New Wave-y charm that endeared me to La Roux a few years ago. It could almost be categorized as Stars covering A Flock Of Seagulls. The song is bouncy fun from beginning to end, with Marika Justad’s vocals gliding effortlessly over a funky bass line. The guitar solo toward the end, so out of place in most pop songs, is a brief reminder that Tangerine isn’t trying to jump into a crowded field of radio-friendly also-rans. Rather they’re trying to build a real fan base by writing catchy songs that require real skill to pull off.

They’ll have a full-length out later this year, so if you like “Nothing Better,” be sure to keep an eye out.

CIMMFest Film And Music Preview

April 13, 2014 Leave a comment

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Last year the CIMMFest team was cool enough to let me check out a couple events and sent me some screeners so I could review other movies that I couldn’t see when they showed in theaters. It was a lot of fun, and they’re so passionate about bringing the worlds of cinema and music together it’s hard not to get excited along with them. This year’s lineup is the best yet, so I’ve put together a little “recommended list” for you to ponder before you finalize plans.

FILMS
Looking through the films that they’ll be exhibiting this year, it’s easy to say “Just hit everything you can.” You should totally do that if you have the time. Otherwise, here are the ones I would schedule part of your day around.

Theory Of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents-Showing at The Hideout on 5/3 at 2:30pm

Looking For Johnny-Showing at Logan Theatre on 5/3 at 7:15pm

The Man Behind The Throne-Showing at Society For Arts on 5/4 at 3pm

Winding Stream-Showing at Logan Theatre on 5/3 at 5:10pm

20,000 Days On Earth-Showing at Logan Theatre on 5/3 at 9:30pm

Bayou Maharajah-Showing at Society For Arts on 5/2 at 7pm

Be Here To Love Me-Showing at Logan Theatre on 5/3 at 12:30pm

I Dream Of Wires-Showing at Society For Arts on 5/2 at 9:15pm

Take Me To The River-Showing at Logan Theatre on 5/4 at 4:15pm

Pleased To Meet Me-Showing at Logan Theatre on 5/2 at 9:25

Palestine Stereo-Showing at Logan Theatre on 5/4 at 7pm

There are also a ton of great-looking shorts playing throughout the fest. For more info on those, and to buy tickets to the above movies, check out CIMMFest.org.

MUSIC

If you think the cinema entries are something to get excited about, wait until you hear all the amazing music that’s gonna be swinging through Chicago durning the fest!

Yo La Tengo at Concord Music Hall 5/1

Closed Sessions Showcase featuring Blu & Exile, Alex Wiley, SHOWYOUSUCK at Double Door 5/2

Escort at Concord Music Hall 5/2

Tim Kinsella plays the songs of Marvin Tate with Leroy Bach, Willis Earl Beal, the YEAH babies at The Hideout 5/2

Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin live scoring Suspiria at Metro 5/3

Bloodshot Records Showcase with Murder By Death and Andre Williams at Logan Square Auditorium 5/3

These New Puritans at Empty Bottle 5/3

I heard a rumor that The Residents will play a set after the documentary shows at The Hideout 5/3, but that could be completely fabricated.

Booker T at City Winery 5/4

Ingenuity Of Hip-Hop: Psalm One, Serengeti, A Cross, Ancient Jewelz at Subterannean 5/4

Ema, Trust, Mozart’s Sister, Downtown Boys at Empty Bottle 5/4

For ticket info, again you can check out CIMMFest.org and buy single show tickets or get festival passes.

Mistaken For Strangers

April 12, 2014 Leave a comment

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[ed. note: I'm re-posting this from my movie review site as it pertains as much to music as it does to movies]

Last night I walked into the tiny Facets Cinemateque theater to see Mistaken For Strangers. I thought it was just going to be a run-of-the-mill doc following the band around with a bunch of concert footage and some silly behind the scenes antics. Instead I saw a real movie about a man (director Tom Berninger) searching for his place in life and coming to terms with his older brother’s success. There are enough great shots of the band and big laughs to please fans of The National and otherwise, but I think all film lovers will be surprised with how well it works as an interesting narrative feature and documentary.

The story kicks off with Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National, asking his brother Tom to join them on a tour of Europe as a roadie. Tom thinks this is great-he doesn’t get to see his brother that often and he wants to document the tour for a movie. Throughout the movie he’s constantly being told to put the camera down and help with other things. He’s a lifelong screw-up, and it’s interesting to watch him take this great opportunity and continuously make poor decisions about pretty much everything.

He does set each member of the band down for a little Q&A, but these generally end up being silly because Tom has a real Chris Farley complex when he’s asking questions. He stumbles his way through questions about how famous they are, what it’s like playing in front of five thousand people, and the creative process of making a record. Then there are times when he asks things thing, “Who can play guitar faster, you or your brother?,” or “Has my brother ever lost his temper with you?” Errol Morris he is not, but these short sessions usually reveal more about Tom than they do about the band.

Over the course of a few tour stops the film changes from a movie about The National to a film about brothers. The band is made up of two sets of brothers and Matt, so it’s cool that the familial dynamic is something they explored with this movie. Tom and Matt love each other, and get along for the most part. You can see Matt struggle to not yell at Tom when he screws up, and the couple times Matt does lose his temper a bit it seems more out of disappointment than anger.

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It’s hard to explain the film, really, because it’s so short it feels like describing any scene is giving too much away. At a brisk 75 minutes, I definitely wanted it to be longer, but Tom Berninger does a great job of carving out a story that comes to a satisfying conclusion. He does get some amazing footage of the band, including a performance of “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” that completely changed the way I feel about the song. He also gets Matt doing his usual stage move, and I’ve seen this myself, where he leaves the stage and walks as far back into the audience as he can. Of course, at the filmed show he got all the way out to the lobby of the venue, so that’s new.

If you have a sibling, I think the movie can be a bit more dramatic than if you’re an only child. We always want what’s best for our brothers and sisters, and you can see Tom and Matt are always rooting for each other. I don’t know if Tom has plans to keep making documentaries or do features, but he’s definitely got the passion for it. He’s just one of those lovable goofballs you always want around, so I hope he finds something a little better than the other movies he’s directed (there are a couple of hilarious scenes depicting his prior work).

The movie is only in a very limited number of theaters, so I’m glad I live somewhere that I could see it on the big screen. If you aren’t so lucky you can download Mistaken For Strangers on iTunes or check your video-on-demand listings.

We Got Lucky-The Best Of Tom Petty

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If the question you’re looking to answer is “Who is the greatest songwriter?” The obvious answer is Bob Dylan. With his profound knowledge if literature, absurd mastery of the language, and his acerbic wit it’s hard to think anyone could do it any better. And you wouldn’t be wrong. If I’m alone in a room and want to listen to something, Dylan is a fine choice. But his songs aren’t exactly great for groups. No, for that another name comes to mind-Tom Petty.

Over the past 4 decades I can’t think of anyone who’s served as the soundtrack for American good times like Petty and his band The Heartbreakers. They just find the perfect groove that forces your mouth to sing along with every tune. It’s probably the reason I’ve seen at least 3 bands cover “American Girl” in the past year, and most likely the reason I loved all 3 of them.

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The Best Fest (sponsored by Jameson) is putting on a show (a series of shows, actually) dedicated to Petty and his amazing craft. Petty Fest hit LA last week, and will be here in Chicago on April 23rd with musicians like Jakob Dylan, Allison Mosshart, John Stirrat and Pat Sansone (both of Wilco), Cory Chisel, Brendan Benson and a whole slew of others that want to get together and celebrate Tom Petty’s greatness. In the past they’ve also put other Petty Fests as well as a Dylan Fest and a Stones Fest, and they look like a blast from the pics and videos I’ve seen.

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you-that’s Albert Hammond, jr and Nick Valensi of The Strokes jamming with Captain Jack Sparrow himself, mister Johnny Depp.

If you live in or around Chicago and you haven’t bought tickets to this, you need to quit being silly and snatch em up. Click HERE and then get yours before they’re gone!

Now here are my ten favorite Petty songs (both with the band and solo).

10. You Wreck Me

9. All Or Nothin’ (I couldn’t find a video for this one by Petty, so here’s the Denver School Of Rock kids doing it instead)

8. Here Comes My Girl

7. Runnin’ Down A Dream

6. The Waiting

5. Refugee

4. Even The Losers

3. Breakdown

2. American Girl

1. You Got Lucky

Honorable Mention: Southern Accents

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Bummer-Bummer EP

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“It began with blood. It would end the same way.” It’s been more than 20 years since I read that line in Christopher Pike’s dark YA novel Monster. I have no idea why I remember it to this day, Bummer‘s new EP has made me think of it more and more. Carnage runs rampant through the first two songs on this self-titled release, with pieces of brain and bone throughout displaying the take-no-prisoners approach to lyricism from John Rossiter.

A couple weeks ago I posted the first single from the EP, “wayisound.” It’s the lead track and gives a pretty good impression of what’s to follow in the next three songs. It’s dark and brooding, with a heavy 90′s influence (Alice In Chains/early Modest Mouse). Rossiter writes vividly, painting a picture with his words so horrifyingly beautiful it can be repulsive and undeniably compelling at the same time.

This continues with the second song “cannibal, cannibal.” It carries over a lot of the themes from Rossiter and bassist Shawn Nystrand’s former band Young Jesus-self doubt and destruction, loneliness. While YJ was a pretty straight-forward rock band, Bummer throws in some wrinkles with some crazy electronics and out-of-nowhere tempo changes.

The second half of Bummer shifts away from the acrimony with two songs sharing the word “love” in the titles. The first, “youloveme,” feels like it may be in the perspective of a delusional stalker trying to convince his prey that he’s the one for her. The second, “ifyoufallinove,” is actually very pretty at times, and seems quite genuine.

I’ve been a big fan of this grunge resurgence taking place the past couple of years. Between Bummer and Slothrust I have every confidence that it’ll stick around for a while. This EP comes out on Tuesday, April 8th. You can DL it from the group’s Bandcamp page for as little as one dollar!

Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray-Lean Into The Wind

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I like it when people I know do things that are ambitious, be it musically or in life generally. It makes me feel equal parts proud and super lazy. This album is a bizarre blend of country, rock, and spacey head trips that works because it falls into the vision they started out with. You don’t find many folk albums with guitars that slice right through songs, and the often Johnny and June-like vocals add a feeling of down home-ness that makes you feel all warm inside.

Lean Into The Wind is a pretty big leap forward over Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray‘s previous effort, which itself was pretty good. The songs are more complex but not overly so-they focus a lot on Miss Shevaughn’s vocals with good reason. She comes to the mic with a swagger she didn’t have last time out and goes for the gold on every note.

Timing is everything in life, and they couldn’t have picked a better time to release this record. The second song, “Election Year Blues,” fully captures the current state of american politics. Especially timely because of the Supreme Court ruling this week allowing the wealthy to make as many donations to as many politicians as they want (as long as they don’t give too much to one candidate-God forbid!).

It’s also well-timed because I don’t think there’s anything else like this out right now. For example, the song “Lone Star Souvenir” reminds me of something one might hear late at night at some exotic cabaret club. Peggy Lee meets Mazzy Starr in Paris if you will. It comes out of nowhere on the album, with nothing before or after matching what it sets out to do, but it still feels like it belongs here.

I won’t say anything else about the record. It’s for fans of music-all genres. It doesn’t fall into a category, rather taking the pieces that they love from each one and mixing them together to form something new. You can check it out for yourself on Spotify, or you can just pick it up for ten bucks (my recommendation). They’re also out touring the country right now, so you can hear it live and then decided to purchase it after the show!

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