Live + Photos: @deptfordgoth at Schubas Chicago (11/16)
James Blake by Becky Rother
James Blakeseemed genuinely astonished – and a little embarrassed – that the 2,500-seat Riviera Theatre in Chicago was nearly filled to capacity with screaming fans as he took his seat at the piano bench. Although the…
It’s up for debate as to whether it’s a positive or negative aspect to the current state of music but to find a band with a truly diverse sound is a rare find. Sure it’s great to put on an album such as Nootropic from Lower Dens and immerse yourself in it’s hip-chillness which vaguely transforms itself from track to track, the downside to albums like that is it makes most bands feel one-sided and leaves those experiencing it with very low expectations for the future of such bands and places a very limited shelf-life on how long those bands seem interesting and relevant.
That’s not to say we don’t have solid example of bands who are able to elevate themselves within their confined niche of a sound, the best examples which come to mind are Bon Iver and Beach House who without a doubt have found a way to push their sound without changing it.
Save The Clocktower are one of those few bands who walk on the other side of the current status-quo line in the sand. Amidst the slight yet consistent genre shifts on their new album Through The Glass is an underlying ethos which becomes more and more apparent as the album unfolds.
This makes it easy to recommend the album as a whole yet is difficult to settle on one definitive song to introduce them with.
The confident 80’s dream-pop track “I Know I’d Feel The Same" probably stands out the most in my mind, possibly stemming from the fact that it sounds much more Brooklyn than their native Chicago, fans of Bear Hands will most likely love this. It’s also one of the more simple songs included on Through The Glass substituting a solid vibe for the creative instrumentation and organized breaks which are the cornerstone to the rest of the album.
Follow the Bandcamp link below to check out the rest of the album, it’s worth the effort.
Living in Chicago during my high school years exposed me to a band by the name of The O’My’s, who, back in the days of MySpace, were already making a bit of a local splash. I can’t remember if it was my taste at the time or their style, but I never really connected with what was happening. My mistake, really.
Fast forward a few years, let’s say four, more or less, and I re-discovered the smooth sounds of the collective which lists up to eight members on their Facebook page. This time, the story was very different, as the band’s take on hip-hop influenced soul has me completely sold. The music is entirely representative of Chicago’s mix of cultures and styles in all the best ways.
The band’s first work currently available online is last year’s Potty Mouth E.P., which, in its four songs serves as a perfect introduction. Songs like "My House" are perfect examples of what the band is capable of, with lead singer Maceo Haymes’ sultry vocal backed by a classic combination of jazzy keys and percussion and a tight and groovy bass line. "Abusive", complete with the timeless “shoo-wap, shoo-wap” backing vocals and even a trumpet solo, is another clear showing that the band know exactly what they’re doing.
Just over two months ago, The O’My’s returned with the Blended Babies-produced Chicago Style mixtape, which I highly recommend you go download. Right from the first track, "The Wonder Years", which also happens to be a highlight, the slight tweaks the band have made to their sound shine through. Here, the hip-hop influences shine through, as the bass drum is mixed higher, and there’s a verse from fellow Chicago native Chance the Rapper. The keys also take a step back to make room for a slowly-strummed guitar that adds an incredibly soulful vibe.
The reserved "Simply Beautiful", released after the EP and included in the mixtape, shows a different side of group. In this case Haymes is backed only by an acoustic guitar and some sort of glockenspiel, and the track serves as a perfect example that sometimes less is indeed more.
The rest of the Chicago Style sees the band exploring similar sounds, with other highlights such as "Girl It’s Been Fun", or closer "Livin’ Wrong", another heavy hip-hop number with a feature from GLC. Throughout, the band present their sound that’s no doubt rooted in classic soul, but add touches of flavor to make everything sound very much present day. In fact, I’d say it at times it sounds like D’Angelo in all the best ways.
The O’My’s Chicago Style is currently available for free download (which you should really do), and below you can stream some of the band’s highlights.
Industrial-techno, typically two genres I’ve never gotten stoked for. That is until I heard V A L I S and their mixture of shadowy-electronic craft of perfection.
Although every track I’ve heard from this Chicago duo is as massively sick, “Cold Hands" is the initial song to steal my heart.
The darkly ominous overtones with the slight 80’s edge make things feel dangerous, like being chased through fog at midnight. “Cold Hands" would have been perfect as part of the soundtrack for The Lost Boys.
Listen to Gemini Club's new song, "Can’t Believe You Said That", from their upcoming EP "Here We Sit" to be released on April 17.
One of the great things about Chicago’s Dozens (other than the fact that they’re from Chicago) is their ability to surprise. And on the band’s latest 7” single, “Sounds Of Your Lovers”, Dozens show that they’re damn good at it. In less than ten minutes the trio go from assorted beeps and bloops to a looping synth to a hard-hitting chorus (come on, listen to the song again and tell me you’re not singing along the next time around) and back (the A-side) and then throw a curve ball with a chillwave-on-steroids rendition of The Sugarcubes' (Björk's old band) "Birthday" (the B-side).
Having listened to the band’s previous work, their "Dozens EP" - which you can still listen to - the changes made for this new offering are all welcome ones. On the title track of the new single, elements slowly come together to form the full song, something that’s been done time and time again, but the order in which the band makes that happen keeps things interesting. With only a sparse bass synth and a sparkling lead synth melody, the vocals come in and only a few bars after, completely unexpectedly and in the middle of a vocal line, the drums roll in. The song continues to build from here, adding more synths and some vocal interplay which becomes one of the track’s highlights. It’s interesting to hear the falsetto relegated to back up on the verses but hitting full force in the chorus. The fact that all three members of the band are listed as vocalists does nothing but help to create the fantastic vocal interplay, which, although a small detail, definitely brings something interesting and fresh to the table.
As huge-sounding as “Sounds Of Your Lovers” is, the band demonstrate that they also know how to take things down a notch (but only a notch) on the single’s flip-side. Some might call it a defect, but, for me, any band that can take a song that’s pretty rough around the edges and almost impossible to sing along to (Björk’s “oh’s” in the chorus aren’t very user-friendly), polish it a little and make it sound current and their own while still maintaining the original’s essence, is definitely worth receiving a pat on the back (Dozens, if you’re reading this, here’s an internet pat on the back).
Their cover of "Birthday" also demonstrates a band with serious balls. Most young bands (these guys have been together for only a couple of years, since 2009) would stick to easy fits; songs that they can easily change up and get them some blog love. Dozens goes above and beyond the requirement, making a 15 year-old song sound current again with glossy synths and smoothed out “oh’s” as the main hook (sorry, Björk, these are easier to sing). These guys have picked up tricks from the best, listing Michael Jackson (bouncy synths and huge choruses), Aphex Twin (this one’s got me scratching my head a bit, but I guess it adds to the element of surprise I mentioned earlier), Fleetwood Mac, and The Temptations (I’m guessing these last two vocally), among others, as influences.
Keep Dozens on your radar. If these two latest songs are any indication, they’re bound to be doing great things soon. Be sure to check out “Sounds Of Your Lovers”, and download “Birthday” and "Arrest Yourself" (from their previous EP), below.
My Gold Mask is a duo from Chicago whose austere sound is dynamic and infectious. Gretta Rochelle sings lead and plays drums to Jack Armondo’s stripped-down guitar chords. His backup vocals give “Violet Eyes” an additional eerie feeling to Rochelle’s piercing vocals that could probably actually and metaphorically “drive nails into your heart.”
Despite the similarities between Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Rochelle, “Violet Eyes” adds something almost sadistic and dark - the lingering guitar strokes, the repetitive clanging, the dramatic pauses, and the ever-so-slow drumbeat that steadily builds. It’s so intense that at times you can almost picture the sound flowing right in front of you. Or it could be that she apparently “like[s] violent skies” and as I mentioned before, “like[s] driving [those] into your heart.”
Listening to their EP, “A Thousand Voices”, My Gold Mask adds some range to their sound, but their signature seems to be how well they can make the simplest beats sound so exaggerated and forceful. In “All Up In The Air,” what I believe is a cowbell, even sounds climactic and expressive. They call their sound “intrinsic pop,” which I couldn’t agree with more, but it’s with a twist.