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Gossip Wolf: Czar rules (on a new album)

Plus: Release parties for one-man synth project Potions and folky singer-songwriter Shaina Hoffman

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Last month Chicago metal trio Czar self-released their second LP, No One Is Alone If No One Is Alive, and they've retained their despotic mastery of sludgy doom, gloomy industrial, and driving death metal (with a healthy dose of stomping 90s alt-rock). Throw in the heaviest Beatles cover since Vanilla Fudge—a thermonuclear "I Want You (She's So Heavy)"—and you've got one of the year's best local metal albums. Czar's gig opening for Godflesh at Metro in October was postponed until April, but they're headlining the Empty Bottle on Fri 12/13 with the Chicago Thrash Ensemble, Arbogast, and Marmora.

This wolf has been looking forward to MIDI Jazz Bass, the latest album from one-man synth project Potions, aka Distractions front man Tom Owens, aka Roland Potions. On Thu 12/12 Lake Paradise releases it on vinyl, and that same evening Potions plays a release show at the Hideout! The Gossip Wolf crew got an early listen, and we're particularly enchanted by "Conga Flame," a spacey jam whose overlapping sheets of synth melodies ride tinny drum samples. Lake Paradise pressed 200 copies of MIDI Jazz Bass, and you can grab one at the Hideout—or at a DIY release party on Sat 12/14, where you'll also be able to try a dark ale Lake Paradise had brewed for the show with figs and wild bee balm. E-mail for info.

On her charmingly ramshackle new self-released album, Middle Sister, folky local guitar picker Shaina Hoffman sometimes sings like she's pressed for time—her voice swoops and dips and rushes out in a mumbly tumble, a la Kimya Dawson. But her songs, ballasted by the accompaniment of violinist Ian Bertorelli, have lovely, bluesy melodies—especially the lilting "After the Firing." Middle Sister is available on Hoffman's Bandcamp page, and she'll have CDs on hand when she plays Cafe Mustache on Thu 12/12 with Bill Tucker and Madeline Adams.

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