At the beginning of the year I posted the ten bands that I thought should hit big in 2012. I wasn’t right on all of them, but I got a few things correct. I suppose if it proves anything, this lists shows that I am not in step with the mainstream in the least. That’s ok, though. Great music doesn’t always live on KISS FM or whatever your local hot radio station is. Sometimes you have to search for it, and hopefully this list gives you some ideas about music to check out in 2013.
Dastardly-The group released two great EP’s, including my favorite EP of the year, Ballads In Blue. They got quite a bit of touring in, making multiple trips between Chicago and the east coast. They didn’t sell ten million records, but they did have a fantastic year creatively, and I’m looking forward to their 2013.
Bhi Bhiman-What can I say about this guy? He’s taking it to another level. He got some great reviews for his second album, Bhiman, and the love just kept on coming. He got on the good side of NPR, got to open for Taj Mahal, went over to England a couple of times and got to play Later With Jools Holland. He isn’t a household name…yet, but he definitely had a great year!
Adam Arcuragi-Like a fire that consumes all before it… was one of my favorite records of 2012. Adam has such a passionate voice. He and his band toured tirelessly across the US this year. They did a Daytrotter session and also got some of that NPR Best New Music love.
Sons Of An Illustrious Father-They didn’t release any new music this year, and they lost two members (Sofia Albam and Ezra Miller), but they’re still truckin’. They did some touring as a three-piece, featuring Lilah Larson, Jake Generalli, and Josh Aubin. They even stopped here in Chicago and played with another of my favorite bands, The Canoes. Missing two members did change the sound, but I really liked the direction they were going.
Fanfarlo-Ok, this one was a shot in the dark, and I missed pretty badly. Their 2012 release, Room Filled With Lights, was not very good. They hit the US for a tour, but I didn’t go see them because I was disappointed with the album.
Cloud Nothings-Attack On Memory got a lot of buzz before it’s release, and when it came out it seemed to polarize critics a bit. It was a big change from their previous album. I didn’t love it, but the song “Stay Useless” did make my Songs of the Year for 2012.
Young Jesus-These guys started out hot, and then cooled as the summer turned to fall. They released Home in January, put out a video for the song “Fallin For You,” and went on a tour of the midwest and east coast. Recently they’ve just been playing local shows around Chicago and Milwaukee, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had big plans for 2013.
Oh! My Blackbird-They followed up their EP from 2011 with their debut full-length, Dare Me. I rated it number 37 on my Top 50 Albums of 2012. They didn’t leave the east coast, but I’ve heard that one member is from the Chicago area, so a tour isn’t out of the question.
Tennis-I’m not sure that Tennis got any bigger in 2012 than they were in 2011. They put out Young & Old, produced by The Black Keys Patrick Carney, which I thought was a pretty solid record. They played here in Chicago twice, and toured around the country, so I’m sure they at least kept the fans that they won over with Cape Dory.
Fort Frances/Chaperone/Molehill-These three local bands I put at the end because I wanted to see them succeed this year. Fort Frances maybe had the best 2012 of the three. They opened for some of the buzziest bands in the country, were featured on Tosh.0, and released some great covers in their “As Told By Fort Frances” series. Chaperone is probably nearing the end of their run. They’ve announced that their upcoming show next week could very well be their last. I’ve seen a lot of growth in them over the past two years-both artistically and as people-so it is with great remorse that I accept their decision. Molehill is going stronger than ever, though. After releasing Equinox in March of this year (#34 of my Top 50), they did some touring and came within a whisper of winning Hard Rock Cafe’s Battle Of The Bands. They’ve been working on some new material this winter, so 2013 might see another Molehill album for us to enjoy.
It’s hard to believe it’s only been four months since I reviewed the debut release from Bedroom Sons, Father. Now the solo effort from Chris Dertz returns with a wildly different follow up called Take Your Time. The collection only contains four songs, but they’re a good length, so it doesn’t feel like you get shorted at all with the EP. It’s almost too much, really. Every song here is so full that you hardly have a chance to breathe and take it all in.
Immediately after clicking play on the first track, “Friends,” you forget everything you thought you knew about Bedroom Sons. The more experimental sound on Father is replaced by whirling guitars and post-punk drums and attitude. With just one release under his belt, Dertz comes out firing with all the confidence in the world. His lyrics are improved, his voice stronger, and because he plays all the instruments each one has the same swagger. Like all the songs on Take Your Time, “Friends” is a love song. This one is of the “Man vs. Himself”-type, as Dertz poses the question “How do you know if who you are is who you want to be? And if you know, do you have the strength to be the change you want to see? Or are you just too weak like me?”
The second track, “Won’t Stop,” really blew me away. Even after hearing the change in style on the first track, I wasn’t prepared for the summer anthem of the year to be on this record. I seriously heard this song and imagined sixteen year old me driving around in my ’91 Sunbird blaring this thing at full volume. It’s got everything I love-horns, guitar solos, screaming vocals, and a bit of a Rolling Stones feel that I can’t quite explain. The guitar work here is the best on the EP. It’s a blues/soul song, and the sad, longing guitar solo fits perfectly. It’s a song about loss and regret, and the words feel sincere and heartfelt:
that your loving, to me
is the only thing
i could possibly need
and i need it relentlessly
so don’t go just yet
give me one more breath
some time to reconnect
and if not, give me death
“Yours By Rights” is the most poppy piece of songwriting on the EP. It’s almost like, and forgive me for this, an old Barenaked Ladies song. There’s a lot more attitude in the song Bedroom Sons put out, of course, but that’s the first thing I thought of. The textured vocals in the chorus really make this song for me. “When everything in our lives is right, it’s all because you’re mine,” is Dertz trying endlessly to convince this former lover to return to him. It’s a sunny outlook, but on this EP everything that seems light has a dark side underneath.
The final song, “The Same Dream,” is the final plea offered by Dertz. On this song his voice and guitar style remind me a little of Chris Owens on the last Girls record. His words are hushed, almost indistinguishable for the first verse. As he’s singing he seems to be coming to terms with the fact that this may not end well. He even tells the one that left,
if god forbid you find a new man
i hope he can see you
in all the ways i know that i can
and love you just half as much as i do
The music explodes in fuzzy guitars a vocal wails in the chorus. Now a month after the breakup, our protagonist is still agonizing over his loss, unable to move on. Throughout the record Dertz does a good job of keeping this narrative going, with each song being the next step towards getting over the heartbreak.
Bedroom Sons have now delivered two impressive EP’s in a little over a year. The next step, I hope, is a full-length and some shows around the Chicago area. The progress made between last May and today are pretty astounding, and if he continues at this rate, I think a lot of people will be talking about him instead of just me. Give this EP a shot. It’s available on Bandcamp as a “Pay what you want” download. If you like it, also check out Father, which is $2.
I don’t even remember how long it’s been since Bedroom Sons emailed me a link to this record. The first time I listened to it I thought it was ok, but it didn’t really hit me the way I like a record to. I did really like the last song on the EP, “My Blood pt 3″ and I sent that one to my friends at The Snake. They also enjoyed it, and I set up a digital release of that song as a single. After that, I just kinda moved on without thinking about it. Then about a week ago I got some news that reminded me that I should review this EP before another one comes out.
The first song kicks off with some soft and sweet singing about a lake in Michigan before it snaps off in a new direction with a drum fill and the voice of Chris Dertz. The vocals that Dertz performs on Father are really the bedrock of the whole thing. He sounds a little like Conor Oberst, and there’s a lot of anger and passion in his delivery. The guitar playing also plays a part in creating the sound of this song, with Dertz not playing so much as attacking the instrument. There’s a vicious bit of frenetic starting and stopping on the strings that gives a panicked sound to the recording.
On “My Blood pt 2″ Dertz fashions my favorite lyric from the 4 songs collected here: “I know how you are heated my blood boils all the time, but to lash out at your brother, well that’s just like a son of mine.” On this one the instrumentation is pretty much left behind in favor of vocal loops. It’s a very odd song, but compelling all the same. The lone guitar playing for the last part of the songs is quite nice and gives it a bit of an epilogue that a lot of people wouldn’t think to include.
“Frozen To The Bone” might be the most quiet song, but it’s not for a lack of crashing guitars. Most of the song is just a straightforward folk song with guitar and harmonica. When you’re least expecting it there’s an explosion of sound as Dertz screams “So I tried, to run away from the pain I fell on the ice, and he picked me up and threw me like a stone.” The dynamic of soft and hard, loud and quiet is a constant one on Father. It’s used to great effect and never feels forced.
The final track, “My Blood pt 3,” I’ve already mentioned. Let me be a little more clear about why I thought that one would be a great single. It’s completely different from the rest of the songs, but also the same. It takes all the best things about the other three songs, and packages it in a way that tells you everything you need to know about the record. It’s got bluegrass and country influences, but also Neutral Milk Hotel and Arcade Fire can be heard in there.
Bedroom Sons records out of DeKalb, IL and plays around the Chicago area. On record, Dertz plays all the instruments and sings-with the exception of the horn on “My Blood pt 1.” He’s a talented musician, a gifted songwriter, and from what I can tell a pretty nice guy. Father is available for download right now on Bandcamp for the very fair price of FREE. It is definitely recommended that you check it out.