Chicago rockers Molehill have released the first of three singles coming out over the next few months that will make up their Hearts On Fire EP. The title track premiered on 50Thirdand3rd‘s website yesterday. The protest anthem feels very in-step with the times, and I’m all for any songs that stand behind the #Resist movement.
Molehill has always been a band who knows what they want to sound like, and it sounds like they wanted to take some chances here and change it up a bit. I especially enjoy Pete Manhart’s vocals, specifically in the last bit of the song-I don’t remember another track of theirs where his voice is so out in front of everything else, and certainly not the kind of guttural growl he displays here.
If you dig the song you can pre-order the physical version of the EP here. You will receive each song digitally as they’re released ahead of the physical disc. If you’re in the Chicago area, the band is playing a release show with Bassell & The Supernaturals at Logan Square Auditorium (moved from Double Door) on Friday February 24th-tickets will be available at the door. It’s a 21+ show, so leave the kids at home.
A few years ago someone sent me a copy of The Right Now Gets Over You to review. It wasn’t like anything I was listening to at the time-a throwback breakup record filled with funk and R&B and some of the best vocals I’d heard in ages. While Stefanie Berecz’s vocals carried the record for me, it was apparent that there was a lot of talent involved. Now they’re back with their first full-length in 4 years, and it finds all the potential of the 2012 release realized over 10 songs.
There was one major release that happened between Gets Over You and the new album, Starlight. They got a song placed in the huge-selling video game Watch Dogs. That brought a lot of new fans into the fold, and I think Starlight does a good job of capitalizing on their opportunity.
The sounds are very similar to the old stuff, but Starlight is a much cleaner record. The production is slick and pristine, with layers of horns, guitars, and vocals all stacked perfectly. The single “Postcard” gives a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
As a whole, the album is more fun than Gets Over You. Most of the tracks will put a smile on your face and make you want to dance, so plan accordingly if you’re thinking about seeing them play live (The Hideout, April 14th album release show!).
I was most impressed with the guitar work on “Everything Is Broken.” It’s a triply blues riff that bends and melts around Berecz’s sultry lounge singer delivery. The guitar screams through the last portion of the song in a way you won’t hear anywhere else on the album.
Starlight comes out later this week, but you can pre-order it here on vinyl or CD.
NE-HI is great. There isn’t much else I need to say about them than that. I saw them play a couple years ago and they were so fun I never wanted their set to end. They have a new album coming out in about a week called Offers that has already been getting good reviews and if the whole thing is like “Stay Young” than I have to assume they’re correct.
A few months ago I wrote about the first single off Never Again, the new EP from singer/songwriter Steph Barrak. It feels like forever ago, but the EP is finally out and you can stream it on Spotify or buy it on iTunes and Bandcamp. This is Steph’s first release in quite a while, and I’m very pleased with the results after the long hiatus.
Never Again is a much slicker production than her Valentine’s treatise Words To Break Your Heart back in February of 2013. This release is much shorter, but hits the same themes of love and loss and dealing with the rough times and coming out stronger on the other side.
Lyrically and musically Never Again finds Barrak hitting some of the potential that made Words such an interesting record. There’s a lot to be said about our own self-destructive ways, and she lays it out on “Bad Habits.” One of my favorite sections of the EP is the bridge that includes this stanza:
Try as I might my heart just will not listen
To my brain when it says to quit all this feeling
Did I lose control, drive this straight off the freeway
Or do we subconsciously mean to destroy things
I’m a big fan of the ambitious zeal that drives this record. It’s been a while and I’m sure a lot has changed for Barrak over the last few years, but Never Again is a huge leap with big guitar hooks and harmonies that didn’t exist on Words. I’m hoping this is just the beginning and we’ll get many more records from Steph Barrak (and hopefully not all 3 or 4 years apart).
Earlier this week I reviewed K’Valentine’s new record Here For A Reason that will be out sometime this Spring (I think). Last night I got to see her perform an opening set for Talib Kweli. She signed to Javotti a couple years ago and has spent that time honing her skills and learning from the talent on the already-impressive roster. She definitely earned her spot alongside those luminaries of rap.
With her family right up front, she blasted through some of her new songs as well as tracks from her previous mix tapes. She seemed happy to be performing for a hometown crowd and had a smile on her face for most of the show. It was a short set, but the potential for stardom was evident. Keep your eye out for the record and if the Sevens Tour comes through your town get there early to see K’Valentine’s set.
I don’t think I need to say too much about Styles P. The Lox, Ruff Ryders, D-Block Records, now he’ got a collaboration coming out with Talib Kweli and is currently opening on the Sevens Tour, where I caught him last night. Over 20 years into his career he still brings the energy to his live show. He even got off the stage and did a mini-set in the middle of the crowd. (Check out a short clip of that here)
Chicago has enjoyed a decade of music coming from the inner-city kids that grew up surrounded by violence and discrimination. Some have approached it with cynicism, while others have tried to add some light where there’s already too much darkness. K’Valentine falls in with the latter, spinning a positive vibe and “we can do it” attitude in her lyrics.
Thankfully, K’Valentine doesn’t use as much of the drill production that plagues so much of Chicago’s rap scene. It pops up here and there, but it’s used wisely. Instead of coming off like every other local rapper, she shoots for fresh sounds that draw you in rather than blending in with everything else.
Signed to Javotti a few years ago, Here For A Reason is K’Valentine’s first full-length LP after a series of mix tapes. She does her best to make her reasons clear, and after just a couple tracks I think you’ll see how she’s earned her spot on such an impressive roster.
K is trying to become the latest female to gain notoriety out of Chicago, with Tink and Noname being a couple of the more famous to achieve some fame. I’d put her skills above theirs, and the potential for greatness is certainly there. She has a great ear for melody and a flow dripping with confidence and knowledge of craft.
The track that really made itself stand above the others is “Atlanta.” It’s only negative is the intor featuring a voicemail returning a missed call. It’s a bit muffled and doesn’t add anything to the feeling of the song, which is one of deep love and yearning. She plays with tempo and bounces between rapping and singing, performing both solidly with ease.
Here For A Reason is a great introduction to a rising talent. If you’re a fan of rap and hip-hop, you’ll want to get on the K’Valentine bandwagon before she blows up. Talib Kweli has her opening his current run of shows, which stops in Chicago on Thursday February 2 at Metro.
The album is currently without release date, but should be out relatively soon.