Best Chicago Answer to Tune-Yards


Critics' Picks

Singer and multi-instrumentalist Alicia Walter of Oshwa is a classically trained pianist who studied composition with Marcos Balter at Columbia College, alongside her bandmate Jordan Tate; in interviews the group has cited the influence of avant-garde composers such as Scriabin and Bartók. As a vocalist, though, the 24-year-old Walter is entirely self-taught. Her playful, idiosyncratic singing on the band's 2013 studio debut, Chamomile Crush, sounds a little like Gertrude Stein, but she's happy to admit that her actual inspiration is Merrill Garbus, aka Tune-Yards—Walter's been listening to her since finding the Tune-Yards MySpace page as a sophomore in college. Like Garbus, she forgoes sultry front-woman crooning in favor of something headier and more interesting, and her left-of-center delivery gives the songs an added layer of texture. But unlike Stein, she's a highly emotional performer—so much so that she spent her first couple years in Oshwa overdoing it, which led to a nasty case of TMJ. After applying plenty of Tiger Balm and learning to rein in her wildness for a more Zen-like approach, Walter healed; she's now working on new material with the band, whose live shows continue to impress her unique point of view on the local avant-pop scene.