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Molehill-“Hearts On Fire”

February 22, 2017 3 comments

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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.

 

The Right Now-Starlight

February 21, 2017 Leave a comment


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: Stay Young (Video)

February 15, 2017 Leave a comment

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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.

NE-HI plays at Empty Bottle for the record release show on February 24th. Tickets are $10 and you can grab them right here. You can also pre-order the new album here.

Dunn Dunn Fest Returns Next Week!

February 9, 2017 Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the last installment of Chicago’s finest multi-venue music festival, Dunn Dunn Fest. The yearly smorgasbord of great music is provided by Harmonica Dunn founder Donnie Biggins. Every year he finds amazing known talent and acts flying under the radar and puts them all together for a crazy three days of discovery and enjoyment.

Last year I spent my three days Of Dunn Dunn Fest at three different venues, listening to very different styles of music. Thursday I was at Beat Kitchen for Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes (with opening sets from Jared Rabin and Kansas Bible Company), Friday I got funky with Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Nasty Snacks, and Alanna Royale at Lincoln Hall, and on Saturday I caught Frontier Ruckus along with the great Chicago bands Mooner and Martin Van Ruin at Schubas. This year’s lineup provides opportunities just as entertaining.

Below is what I would choose to see if I were going. Sadly, I’ll be out of town for the duration of the festival. Please take some videos and post them on the internet. For a full list of artists playing, check out the Harmonica Dunn website.

Thursday: The Kickback at Beat Kitchen

The band just added some more dates opening for Bush, but here you get to see their craziness headlining a small venue instead of opening in a 2,000 seat theater.

Friday: Low Cut Connie at Lincoln Hall

Three great bands, including Biggins’ own The Shams Band and St Louis glam-pop act Sleepy Kitty!

Saturday: Mike Doughty at Lincoln Hall

Dunn Dunn Fest and WXRT join forces to bring former Soul Coighing frontman/currently successful solo artist Mike Doughty to Lincoln Hall! Opening act is Wheatus.

Vowws at Lincoln Hall 2/6/2017

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

Last night Vowws hit the stage at Lincoln Hall to play for a crowd for which most openers could only wish. Almost everyone in the audience was not only aware of Vowws, but knew the words to the songs and were as much their for them as they were for headliner White Lies.

I was not that familiar, but found the set to be very entertaining. The duo hits a lot of Joy Division/The Cure sounds, but their bass hits are more tribal and hypnotic. I don’t know if anyone has coined the term “Industribal,” but that’s what I would call this.

My only issue with their set was that the lighting was too dark to get really good pictures (where I was standing anyway, maybe it was a little more balanced in the middle). I did the best I could.

White Lies at Lincoln Hall 2/6/2017

February 7, 2017 Leave a comment

I’ve always been a fairly punctual person. I really thought showing up 30 minutes early for a show would give me a good vantage point for taking photos of White Lies and Vowws last night at Lincoln Hall. I was gravely mistaken. By the time I walked into the venue at 7:30, there were already rabid White Lies fans up against the stage-maybe 30-40. I don’t remember the last time I was at a concert where that many people showed up early and flocked straight to the front.

They must have known what they were in for, because they got a heck of a show. Vowws opening set was dark and brooding dance music with a heavy bass foundation. Very different from White Lies, but somehow they go together. There are some stark differences, though. The biggest is the tempo: Vowws take their time and get under your skin while White Lies strike quickly.

A couple songs into their set, Harry McVeigh announced that they’d put out a new record (Friends) since the last time they played in Chicago, so they were going to play a lot of that. The band didn’t shy away from deep cuts, though. The crowd erupted when he said the next song would be “The Price Of Love,” which they’ve been doing on this current tour but hadn’t played since 2011. Of the 17 songs on the setlist, five of them came from their debut To Lose My Life…. Before the set even started but after the tour manager put out the setlist I overheard a fan standing right in the center exclaim “Oh my fucking God, dude, they’re playing fucking ‘From The Stars’ holy shit!” so I think it was a very fan-friendly group of songs.

Steph Barrak-Never Again

February 6, 2017 Leave a comment

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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).

 

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