Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Tei Shi-Crawl Space

0ae9281c-53e7-4172-9dee-1970f960acf8

Photo by: JJ Medina

Tei Shi has described her work as “mermaid music.” It’s as good a description as any, as her songs tend to include many different genres layered on top of one another. She also has a voice that draws you in, like the siren song of the sea.

Pop music is the easiest way to classify it, though I don’t know a lot of pop songs that end in a free form jazz breakdown or long sparse outro’s that drip with emotion. The Argentinian-born singer/producer doesn’t settle for the status quo at any point on Crawl Space. Instead, she fills it with sounds that exhibit her personal insecurities and desires. Her voice has a quality of soft sweetness that reminds me of Janet Jackson’s vocals on Janet Jackson’s Janet. album.

The 90’s influences don’t stop there. Early hip-hop beats lay the groundwork for “Baby,” before she adds her contemporary spin which turns it into a glittering dream of warmth and love. That somehow slides perfectly into the dark and funky “How Far.” The opening riff sounds like it was inspired by Frank Ocean’s “Pink Matter,” which isn’t a bad way to start a song. There aren’t a lot of lyrics on this one, but these words repeated make the message pretty clear: “It pleases you to say you’re sorry when you’re not/It’s a dangerous slip of the tongue/If it pleases you to see me struggling/I will.”

“Say You Do” has a Carly Rae Jepsen vibe to it. Jepsen is also prone to 90’s pop sounds, so it makes sense that the most straightforward pop track on the album would sound like something Jepsen would make. Shi puts a bit of herself in there, but it should feel familiar to anyone who listens to mainstream radio.

For that you’ll have to move on to “Justify,” easily the best song on the album. It’s pure raw feeling from beginning to end. The production is a huge contrast from the track that precedes it, with a very futuristic feel to it. The soft, sweet vocals turn to a more sultry tone that leads to a final third of the song that is all bass and a yearning yowl.

There aren’t any bad songs here, and the short interludes provide a deeper look into the psyche of the singer. If you enjoy pop music with a twist, you would do well to check out Crawl Space when it is released on March 31st on Downtown Records. You can even pre-order it here. Tei Shi will be hitting the road with MØ starting next Monday for a sold out show at Metro in Chicago and continuing through the 23rd of March.

For more info on Tei Shi, check out her website.

Wilco At Chicago Theatre 2/26/2017

February 27, 2017 Leave a comment

img_0233-edit

I’ve said this many times, to myself and among my friends and anyone who would be so kind to listen to me ramble on, but it must be stated again-Wilco is the best live band in America. I only stop short of saying the world because, like “The Late Greats,” maybe there is some band I’ve never heard of that is even better. It is hard for me to imagine, though. Wilco’s ability to continue to get better after over 20 years is something I can only chalk up to some kind of divine grace that the universe has given us to make up for every moment of suffering that occurs on Earth. It’s a little miracle that I don’t take for granted.

Last night was, by my count, the 17th time I’ve seen them. I honestly only remember one instance that I didn’t leave a show thinking it was the best I’d ever seen them play (80/35, the weekend before Star Wars came out when it seemed like they were just going through the motions so we didn’t know that something huge was about to happen-for the record I also saw them at Pitchfork the following weekend when they unleashed Star Wars in full and it was amazing). They play off one another and are so in sync it can feel inhuman at times. And it’s obvious they still love playing together if you ever watch Jeff just stare as Nels wails away through a solo.

img_0284

This was the final night of a four-night stand at Chicago Theatre, a stage they had graced only once, when Conan O’Brien filmed his Chicago week there. The setlists all week were great, so I had no doubt that we were in for something special. One thing I will say for the evolution of Wilco-they’ve learned how to construct a set of music that really feels like a roller coaster. They started off nice and easy with a few laid-back tunes, including “Normal American Kids,” “Cry All Day,” and “If I Ever Was  A Child” off their latest album Schmilco. Then they got a little heavier with “Muzzle Of Bees,” “Bull Black Nova,” and hit a climax with “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart.”

The Yankee Hotel Foxtrot killer led into one of the songs that marks the biggest change in Wilco’s evolution, “Art Of Almost.” I probably said this in my initial review of The Whole Love, but that song is unlike anything in the band’s past. It’s a big, loud, arena-rocking showstopper that initially seemed to come out of nowhere but has quickly become a fan favorite at every Wilco show.

img_0292

The rest of the set was a good mix of old and older songs, reaching all the way back to A.M. for “Box Full Of Letters.” Wilco (The Album) and Summerteeth got the short end of the stick, with only one song off of each getting played. But the song off Summerteeth was preceded by one of the great moments of the night: Tweedy told a story about his dad calling him in tears after Trump sent out the (thankfully) now overturned travel ban. His dad felt like for the first time his father (83) was embarrassed to be an American. That led into “I thought about killing you again last night, and it felt alright to me.” A very cathartic moment for myself and I’m sure many others in the audience.

Another great moment happened a few songs earlier when Jeff gave a shoutout to longtime fan Maki, who flew in from Japan to see them play. That’s some dedication right there, and I can’t think of any band I would fly that far to see (thank goodness Wilco is right here where I live). I don’t know if Maki requested the song, but that’s when they did “Magazine Called Sunset.”

img_0240

The double encore featured 7 songs, ending with the audience singing out the riff from “Spiders (Kidsmoke),” which I had never seen them do until this week. They have a video of it on their Facebook page you can check out if you’d like. It was fantastic and even these overzealous dum dums couldn’t stifle our good time.

SETLIST:

On and On and On


Normal American Kids
If I Ever Was A Child
Cry All Day
Muzzle Of Bees
Bull Black Nova
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Art of Almost
Pickled Ginger
Misunderstood
Someone to Lose
A Magazine Called Sunset
Reservations
Impossible Germany
Say You Miss Me
Via Chicago
Box Full of Letters
Heavy Metal Drummer
I’m the Man Who Loves You
Hummingbird
The Late Greats
ENCORE:
Random Name Generator
Jesus, Etc.
Locator
Monday
Outtasite (Outta Mind)
I’m A Wheel
ENCORE:
Spiders (Kidsmoke)

The Regrettes-Feel Your Feelings Fool!

January 16, 2017 Leave a comment

regrettes

It didn’t take long for 2017 to deliver a great record, and thinking of what’s happening at the end of this week it couldn’t have come at a better time. The LA-based The Regrettes have culled 15 songs that feel universally relevant. If you’re old like me, or young like the band, the themes of Feel Your Feelings Fool! should be something to which you can relate.

Musically, I think the band is far ahead of where most their age should be. They seem to understand the difference between paying homage and ripping something off, and they do a good job of nodding to their influences without copying. There is a lot of garage rock and 60’s bubble gum pop getting mixed together. That’s nothing new, really, but they also bring a real punk energy to the songs, so it feels like The Ramones and Strawberry Alarm Clock decided to collaborate.

Lyrically, and I think more importantly, they talk about a lot of issues that plague so many. They talk about identity and misogyny in songs that can be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the point gets across. The band’s voice does seem a bit inconsistent at times, where individual songs are good, but don’t fit in with some of the other tracks on the album. Nothing wrong with that, but I think if it were more consistent the record would be even better than it already is.

The vocal performance by Lydia Night on “Picture Perfect” has a very 90’s kind of flow, so it’s no surprise they count Hole as a reference point. The manic guitar work by Genessa Gariano adds a punch of verve that makes the brilliance of the tune undeniable. Then there’s the Salt-N-Pepa breakdown that makes it a personal favorite.

The Regrettes have a few shows lined up in California next month after touring last year with Sleigh Bells and Tacocat. You can check out Feel Your Feelings Fool! on Spotify.

 

One-Sentence Reviews: Spotify Top 50 (2017-Week 1)

January 6, 2017 Leave a comment

girl-headphones-music-emotions-black-and-white-delight

It’s been a while since I talked about the songs Spotify lists as the most listened to in America, so I wanted to bring it back on a more consistent basis. Hopefully labeling this as week 1 will force me to update this more often.

“Bad and Boujee” by Migos feat. Lul Uzi Vert-Pretty good until Lil Uzi Vert’s part comes on.

“Fake Love” by Drake-The backslide started a couple years ago, but I think it could still get worse.

“Starboy” by The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk-This one’s pretty good but I’ll reserve final judgement until I see Tom Cruise perform the karaoke version on Jimmy Fallon.

“Closer” by The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey-This is not a good song.

“I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” by Zayn and Taylor Swift-Neither as irredeemably bad as Fifty Shades movies, nor worth listening to more than once.

“Black Beatles” by Rae Sremmud feat. Gucci Mane-If you can make it past the “Mike Will Made It” drop, you’re a better person than I am.

“Bounce Back” by Big Sean-Come for the monotone delivery, stay for the boring beat.

“Caroline” by Amine-I honestly don’t even know what’s going on in this song.

“Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello-The dude from Fastball has gotta be turning over in his grave.

“I Feel It Coming” by The Weeknd feat Daft Punk-The bots in Daft Punk need to settle down and maybe only work with The Weeknd once per album.

“Broccoli” by D.R.A.M. feat Lil Yachty-Pretty fun song, but the line “Gonna turn this shit to Columbine” is not fun and actually kind of disgusting.

“Don’t Wanna Know” by Maroon 5 feat Kendrick Lamar-Poor Kendrick.

“Deja Vu” by J Cole-I like this song and most of the album.

“Let Me Love You” by DJ Snake and Justin Bieber-How is this song still getting this many plays?

“X” by 21 Savage feat Future-Pretty misogynist, which I guess is popular these days (maybe these guys should run for office)

“Say You Won’t Let Go” by James Arthur-Finally an heir apparent to Jack Johnson.

“24K Magic” by Bruno Mars-My only question is what Julio is doing during this song…still looking for that stretch?

“In The Name Of Love” by Martin Garrix feat Bebe Rexha-Actually thought this was “Let Me Love You” for a second.

“One Dance” by Drake-Great beat, everything else is bad.

“Chill Bill” by Rob $tone-Interesting use of Ennio Morricone’s “Twisted Nerve,” though it’s wasted once the first verse comes in.

“iSpy” by Kyle and Lil Yachty-Too much talking before the song starts.

“No Heart” by 21 Savage and Metro Boomin-Hopefully by the end of 2017 rap music will lose this beat.

“Party Monster” by The Weeknd-This song is actually pretty good.

“Side To Side” by Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj-The new unholy alliance.

“Starving” by Hailee Steinfeld with Grey and Zedd-Hailee was great in Edge Of Seventeen!

“Sneakin'” by Drake with 21 Savage-Drake sad raps over the most annoying beat ever.

Alessia Cara’s song from Moana-It ain’t “Let It Go,” that’s for sure.

“Heathens” by 21 Pilots-Ugh.

“All We Know” by The Chainsmokers feat Phoebe Ryan-Voices go together well, so this isn’t bad.

“You Was Right” by Lil Uzi Vert-I hope whoever made this beat got paid well because this is like the three thousandth songs I’ve heard it in.

“Mercy” by Shawn Mendes-Like a sorry mix of Sam Smith and Bon Jovi.

“Call On Me” by Starley with Ryan Riback-First time hearing this one, and it sucks.

“Scars To Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara-“Sit Still Look Pretty” with different lyrics.

“OOOUUU” by Lil M.a.-A drunken fever dream where nothing makes sense and you wake up in a cold sweat.

“No Problem” by Chance The Rapper feat Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz-Not my favorite off Coloring Book, but it’s fine.

“Love Me Now” by John Legend-Such a nice guy, and smart, and talented-I wish his songs were as interesting as he is.

“Neighbors” by J Cole-Probably the best song on For Your Eyez Only.

“Swang” by Rae Sremmurd-The tempo is too slow to keep my interest.

“Too Good” by Drake feat Rihanna-Sorry Ri Ri, he’s with J Lo now.

“Six Feet Under” by The Weeknd-Not as good as the show, but better than being there.

“Just Hold On” by Steve Aoki-Probably fun to dance to at a wedding of an ex or a friend that you haven’t seen in a long time so you don’t care how drunk you are.

“All Time Low” by Jon Bellion-Decent throwback to better times.

“Cold Water” by Major Lazer with Biebs and Mo-Catchy pop song but how is it still on here it’s like a year and a half old.

“Controlla” by Drake-This is one of the worst Drake songs, but not THE worst.

“Sidewalks” by The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar-Dig that guitar opening, and happy that Kendrick could redeem himself after that Maroon 5 song.

“pick up the phone” by Young Thug with Travis Scott-Caribbean feel ruined by that damn drill production.

“Needed Me” by Rihanna-Made my top songs of 2016, so I like this one.

“Rockabye” by Clean Bandit feat Sean Paul-I honestly thought Sean Paul retired.

“Redbone” by Childish Gambino-YES!

“Immortal” by J Cole-It’s number 50, but easily better than 45 of the songs on this list.

St. Lenox-Ten Hymns From My American Gothic

November 1, 2016 Leave a comment

711447009616_main

It’s no surprise to me that in 2016, the best album about America is by a first-generation son of Korean immigrants. Andrew Choi’s music toes the line between bitterness and hope. The exhausting journey to find your path and follow it is hard, but there is a chance it’s all gonna be worth it in the end.

St. Lenox, Choi’s title for his musical project, is as close to a new Paul Simon as we’re gonna get, and frankly he’s better than we deserve. His observations about life are smart and biting, and the delivery can sound sweet while being slyly derisive. After putting out the brilliant 10 Songs About Hope And Memory, Choi could’ve sat back and enjoyed the praises he was getting from people around the globe. Instead he went out and wrote a record that goes even deeper into his own mind. The result is overflowing with great lines about the immigrant experience his parents faced as well as his own hardships trying to make it as a young Korean man.

Choi wastes no time pointing out that the “American Dream” is an illusion, for an immigrant and also most Americans who aren’t born with a silver spoon. There’s some fun had at the expense of Nixon on the track of the same name. He talks a bit about how great it is when things get done right in America on the song “Thurgood Marshall.” But for me, the record really strikes it’s finest chords in the last few numbers, focusing on his parents and their life in South Korea before they came to the States.

On “Korea,” Choi sings about the beauty and hostility of his homeland: “And people will greet with a smile and nod to anyone close to closer*, but it’s guns are ready to storm and blaze at anyone north of the border. And people say that the Kingdom Come will send you higher and higher, but the Mongol blood and the hardened veins is an animal deep inside her.” (*good chance I’m hearing this one part of the line wrong).

The vocals on “Korea” are by far the strongest on the record, with Choi’s range and control each in impressive form. So much of the album’s power comes from how the words are delivered, and it’s just perfection time after time.

My favorite song comes almost all the way at the end, called “What I Think About When You Say South Korea.” It’s all about the social aspect of our history-learning things from your parents or grandparents just by sitting with them and talking. Choi recounts his dad’s stories about his relationship with his mother, people left behind in their native country, time spent in the military. It’s also about losing that cultural part of yourself that seems to vanish as you assimilate into a new land. He ends with the line “That’s what I think about when you say South Korea, lately. That’s why I feel I have to go back again someday.”

10 Hymns From My American Gothic is out now on Spotify and the iTunes store. If you want the vinyl, which I always recommend, you can follow this link to pre-order.

Slothrust-Everyone Else

October 20, 2016 Leave a comment

slothrust-lp

It’s been a couple years since I was singing the praises of Slothrust’s debut, Of Course You Do. That grungy instant classic ended up in my top 10 of 2014, and the band’s latest release is looking to repeat or better that offering. Everyone Else improves in almost every conceivable way over Of Course You Do.

Leah Wellbaum’s guitar sounds better, the lyrics are better, the overall sound of the album is more cohesive and accessible to virgin ears-literally every facet of Everyone Else seems to be prepared in order to launch the band into the mainstream. That’s a shame and a blessing for music fans. Most of what gets written and talked about amongst blogs, major publications, newspapers (eek!) sounds the same to me. Hopefully I’m not alone, because if you’re down for something new Slothrust is going to be right up your alley.

I was introduced to the band through a random email from Bada Bing Records. I’d never received anything from them before, but I’ve never been more thankful for a correspondence that may have been sent to me by mistake. I instantly loved the record and caught the band live at Township, which was awesome (especially considering their next show in Chicago, Nov 19th is at the much larger Bottom Lounge). It’s been a long wait for something new from the band, as Wellbaum kept busy with other artistic endeavours, and October 27th Everyone Else will be available for all to hear.

A couple singles have already been released to get you excited. None of them are my favorite from the record, but of the ones out there for you to hear now, I have to say “Like A Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone” is the one you need to check out.

After an instrumental opening that sounds like a sunny California day as viewed by the goth kids from South Park, “Child” throws you right into the dark world that Wellbaum’s lyrics inhabit. There’s a jaunty guitar riff and bouncy bass line that makes the song sound a bit more cheery than it actually is. And the solo that she slaughters halfway through the song absolutely destroys any assumptions you might have about where the song is going to go.

There are a lot of lyrics on the album about water-sea creatures, drowning in it, birth…It’s a fixation that comes in and out, holding the record together like a strong foundation. “I think my face looks like glass, but my body feels plastic-melt me into a bottle. I wish that I was a baby, sucking on myself. Boogie down to the water, I thought that maybe I could be the lake’s daughter. Because I float like an infant inside of it. Weightless in the lake-it’s got nothing to take from me.”

“Rotten Pumpkin” gets a little closer to the sound on their first record, just a bit more polished. It’s loud and fast without taking away from the feeling of pain and despair. “Horseshoe Crab,” a single from the album like the other two songs mentioned so far, is a slower song that allows Wellbaum to stretch her vocal range. At over 5 minutes, it goes on a bit longer than other tracks, but remains one of the better ones. The guitar work here, that swirls around Wellbaum’s voice through the bridge to great effect, is not something all bands can pull off well, but Slothrust nail the balance between too much and just enough added production.

My favorite song comes all the way at the end with “Pigpen.” It’s far too short for my liking, but it’s too good to not mention. It sounds like a front porch version of a RHCP song, with it’s nimbly plucked strings that feel a bit pushed back so they don’t stand out too much. Wellbaum sings “You’ve got an open mouth, and I have got an open wound. Wanna suck the poison out. Will you suck the poison out? And I would spread my wings, if they weren’t so goddam heavy. Yeah I would spread my wings, if they weren’t coated in honey.”

The song ends the album on a disturbingly upbeat tick. Everyone Else contains a lot of darkness, but there’s a steady optimism that things must improve-maybe not now, but someday.

You can pre-order the album on vinyl (or CD?) if you’d like right here. That link will also allow you to see tour dates, which started today and will be making their way across some of the south, the eastern seaboard, and the midwest through November 19th.

 

AJJ at Double Door 10/1/2016

October 2, 2016 Leave a comment


About 5 minutes into the AJJ show last night, after “The Michael Jordan Of Drunk Driving” and halfway through “Gift Of The Magi 2: Return Of The Magi,” a fight broke out right in front of the stage. Sean Bonnette stopped the band and asked those involved what the deal was. As usual with fights at shows it was over something dumb and the band told them they’d have to go to the back of the venue if they wanted to watch the rest of the show. It was the first of many times AJJ would call for some kind of order while the audience jumped and screamed and moshed their way into one another. It wasn’t a mad kind of scolding, but I kept waiting to hear “We aren’t upset we’re just disappointed.”

As with all AJJ shows I’ve been to (4), there are those that want to get rowdy up closer to the stage and those, like me, that hang toward the back. I still got run into a few times during “American Tune,” but for the most part people were respectful.


While their can be some tension in the air with all the bodies knocking around, I still prefer a crowd like these to a show where the disconnect between players and spectators makes it hard to watch. People weren’t playing on their phones or talking loudly to each other-everyone was paying attention and enjoying the music.

AJJ just put out The Bible 2, which is a very good album. It’s in my top 25 of the year so far and should have no problem maintaining their slot. The songs take on even more urgency live, where the band plays everything a little faster. “The Brain Is A Human Body” felt much more alive than it does on the record.

This was an early show, which was kind of weird. AJJ went on at 7 and played for an hour and a half. By the end the room was so hot I was running for the exit just to cool off a bit. All that sweaty skin rubbing together up front must have been scorching when the final note was played. With the night over by 9, it was a tough choice between going out for drinks or just going home to bed. AJJ shows are exhausting.

%d bloggers like this: