Music » Soundboard

The List, August 20-26, 2009

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Clipse, the Horse's Ha, Marmoset, Elvis Costello, De La Soul, and more

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Drug Rug




The Horses's Ha
Cale Parks
Sollaquists of Sound
Wanton Looks


Jon Snodgrass


Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein


Elvis Costello & the Sugarcanes
De La Soul


Drug Rug
  • Drug Rug

DRUG RUG Indie-pop couples straining to be adorable tend to make me dry heave. (Sorry, Matt & Kim, sometimes even you.) But Drug Rug—aka Tommy Allen, Sarah Cronin, and whoever doesn't mind being a third wheel—manage to be charming without sounding like they're trying. I'm glad I didn't flee after I read in their bio that they spent their first date drinking whiskey in bed and trading songs on guitar. The sugary, lo-fi dream pop on their second full-length, Paint the Fence Invisible (Black and Greene), is perfect summer music, bursting with restless energy and easy camaraderie, and Allen and Cronin's contrasting voices—hers is high, almost childlike, while his is an airy, grainy drawl—go together like salt and watermelon. Though the album tails off a bit in its second half, raggedy up-tempo stompers like "Never Tell" and "Hannah, Please" will be enough to bring me out to this show—even though I know there's a real risk the two of them will be sneaking puppy-dog looks at each other onstage. Mazes open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Kevin Warwick


CLIPSE Clipse's two proper albums, 2002's Lord Willin' and 2006's Hell Hath No Fury, succeeded by sticking close to a specific formula—over stripped-down, haunted beats by the Neptunes, brothers Pusha T and Malice rapped with cold dispassion about the fortunes to be made and the fallout to be braved in the crack game. They've earned a fair amount of commercial success and a heap of critical praise with that approach, which is exactly why I was so excited to hear rumors that they'd be leaving at least part of it behind for the upcoming Till the Casket Drops (due October 20 on Columbia), bringing in a busload of producers, including Kanye West and Swizz Beatz. I'm a little disappointed to learn that in fact the Neptunes will be producing the whole album, except for DJ Khalil's beat on "Kinda Like a Big Deal," but on that track and on "I'm Good"—both of which have been released online—Clipse sound looser and significantly less grim, playing up the clubby charm they showed on "When the Last Time" and "Wamp Wamp" and acting like they actually enjoy being famous rappers. Project Mayhem, Mikkey Halsted, and DJs Timbuck2 and RTC open; this performance is part of Sneaker Pimps, which bills itself as "the world's largest sneaker show." 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $25, $20 in advance, 18+. —Miles Raymer

  • TRS-80

TRS-80 Listening to TRS-80 is like getting a back rub in the path of a tornado. Though the repetitive electronic beats and cleverly varying melodic patterns massage your brain, pretty much everything else about the music is chilling and sinister: the glossy and somewhat sterile surfaces are disrupted by sprays of dissonant chords, horror-movie interludes, erratic punches of bass, sampled dialogue that invariably touches on the slavish tedium of existence, and beeping noises that vaguely mimic medical monitors or sonar pings. The end product is often a ghastly sort of beauty. Though founding member Jay Rajeck, who moved to LA in 2006, has had to perservere through a couple recent lineup overhauls—filmmaker and fellow Chicago expat Eric Fensler is his most consistent collaborator these days—he's released the live EP Connect Sets (One Cell) and a studio disc called The New You (Vinyl International) since 2008. Cass McCombs and Vee Dee open. TRS-80 also plays a free all-ages show at 12:15 PM today in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library. 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $10. —Ann Sterzinger


THE HORSE'S HA Seven years ago Jim Elkington, front man of the Zincs, and Janet Bean, best known for her roles in Eleventh Dream Day and Freakwater, began working together as a duo. At first they played covers—the Velvet Underground, Tom Waits, Fred Neil—but soon they developed an original repertoire and drafted bassist Nick Macri, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, and drummer Charles Rumback to fill out their plush but restrained folk-jazz sound. Earlier this year the Horse's Ha—the name comes from a Dylan Thomas story—finally got around to releasing their first album, Of the Cathmawr Yards (Hidden Agenda). Most of the songs are by Elkington, whose elegant melodies benefit greatly from the band's warm, roomy arrangements and Bean's lovely singing. His dry, fragile croon might not seem like a natural fit with her sweet post-Emmylou Harris flutter—their vocals have little in common besides their delicacy—but they find ways to make it work, either trading lines or having Bean shadow Elkington's quavering voice with honeyed softness. The music rarely gets louder than a whisper, but the loose interplay among the musicians, particularly between Rumback's spacious drumming and Lonberg-Holm's sorrowful lines, gives it a kind of weight that doesn't depend on raw volume or brute force. Emily Wells headlines; the Horse's Ha and LeRoy Bach open. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, $8 in advance. —Peter Margasak

MARMOSET Though Marmoset share their name with a type of small, adorable monkey, their hazy and langorous indie pop doesn't have much restless monkey energy to it. The Indianapolis trio have been together since 1995, and their sixth release, the new Tea Tornado (Joyful Noise), is their first in many years without engineer and multi-instrumentalist LonPaul Ellrich, who died in 2008. Surprisingly, the album is slightly less bittersweet than usual for Marmoset—at least on first listen, when what you're most likely to notice are the sunny, folky guitars and the crisp melodies, which sound a little like something Syd Barrett might've written for early Yo La Tengo. But as on past releases there's a surly, cynical edge to the lyrics, which infects the pretty songs with a hint of toxic malaise—these guys may not play hard rock, but that doesn't mean they're soft. Though they've visited Chicago more recently, this is their first proper tour in nearly a decade. Light Pollution, Nervous Fingers, and A Tundra open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Monica Kendrick

CALE PARKS Chicagoan-turned-Brooklynite Cale Parks is best known as the drummer for Aloha, but he's worked with a bunch of bands, from White Williams to Joan of Arc to recent tourmates Passion Pit. The multi-instrumentalist's third solo effort, the recent To Swift Mars (Polyvinyl), is among the more straightforward collections of music he's had a hand in. His previous solo material, especially 2006's Illuminated Manuscript, sounded like indie pop scored by Steve Reich, but the new disc subordinates that cerebral tone and contemporary-classical flavor to broad, slightly skewed melodies and lush synthesizers. Album opener "Eyes Won't Shut" and lead single "One at a Time"—both catchy new wave numbers with detached, mannered vocals—wouldn't sound terribly out of place on a John Hughes soundtrack, and "Knight Conversation," a reverb-swaddled duet with fiance Kendra Smalter, takes a quick detour into comfortably dusty retro territory. Lemonade headlines. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Miles Raymer

SOLILLAQUISTS OF SOUND Orlando hip-hop quartet the Solillaquists of Sound are revved up to battle evil—war, sexism, racism, the stupid gangsta rappers who get all the attention—and they drag an impressive array of musical weapons into the fray. To Swamburger's rhymes and DiVinci's beats (which include a few house tracks) they add two sweet and jazzy female singers, Tonya Combs and Alexandrah, one of whom has a voice so refined she sometimes sounds like a theremin. On their recent sophomore LP, No More Heroes (Anti-), a love song that Jarvis Cocker might've written for a girl group jostles with political ruminations full of gothy synths and menacing violin. The group's current single, "New Sheriff in Town," opens with rapid-fire rhyming over a chunky, distorted stomp, segues into a bludgeoning drum loop that sounds like a power-metal tom fill, and then returns to the initial beat, this time juxtaposed against outer-space soul harmonies from the ladies; DiVinci wraps it up by chanting through a homemade talk box. Before I got hooked on Pandora, I might've called this disc unfocused, but nowadays I can sit back and enjoy the verve with which the Solillaquists cover their enormous range. Contriband and Kick Bricks open. 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $10, 17+. —Ann Sterzinger

WANTON LOOKS For the sake of argument, let's try to imagine a world where everything even indirectly related to rock 'n' roll is as insufferably uncool as your gouty aunt's country-club bridge game. While it's a safe bet that rock would lose 99.9 percent of its fans to other modes of conspicuous consumption, you can be sure that local rocker Traci Trouble (formerly of Hotlips Messiah and the Paper Bullets) would still be doing everything she's doing now. I've met very few people as passionately dedicated to "the rock" as Trouble, and for her new band, the Wanton Looks, she's found three other women who share her devotion. Songs like "Worst Side of Me" (on an upcoming seven-inch comp from Kalamazoo's UFO Dictator Records) and "Demons" combine the snarly, cocksure aggression of Joan Jett & the Blackhearts with Buzzcocks-a-riffic guitar solos and a surplus of well-placed vocal hooks. Radar Eyes, Bird Talk, and Spirits! open. 10 PM, Cobra Lounge, 235 N. Ashland, 312-226-6300. —Brian Costello


JON SNODGRASS Singer-songwriter Jon Snodgrass, best known from Drag the River and Armchair Martian, released his first solo album, Visitor's Band (Suburban Home), early this year. Recorded with friends in various towns, it's both relaxed and energetic, alternating up-tempo jukebox punk with laconic alt-country, both of which Snodgrass has been playing since the early 90s. His version of roots rock isn't tied to any particular region—rather it sounds like an Americana he developed on all-night drives, listening to whatever staticky radio station he could pick up out in the middle of nowhere. Austin Lucas and Two Cow Garage open.  8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. —Monica Kendrick


Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein - LISA MARIE MAZZUCCO
  • Lisa Marie Mazzucco
  • Zuill Bailey and Simone Dinnerstein

ZUILL BAILEY AND SIMONE DINNERSTEIN Cellist Zuill Bailey and pianist Simone Dinnerstein began performing with each other more than a decade ago, before their now thriving solo careers had taken off. Bailey's rise has been smoother and more certain than Dinnerstein's—a late bloomer, she had to self-produce a recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations to get the classical music world's attention. Together they're a promoter's dream: glamorous, charismatic, and immensely musical. Cellists owe much to Beethoven for expanding their instrument's role in chamber music greatly beyond the one established for it by Haydn and Mozart, and Beethoven's works for piano and cello have been the core of this duo's repertoire from the beginning. Here they play all five sonatas, traversing the composer's music from early to middle to late. This concert coincides with Telarc's release of Bailey and Dinnerstein's recording of the complete sonatas and variations, where they deliver performances that are full-blooded yet also wonderfully nuanced and conversational—you can hear their friendship in their playing. 8 PM, Bennett-Gordon Hall, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook, Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $35. —Steve Langendorf


Elvis Costello - JAMES O'MARA
  • James O'Mara
  • Elvis Costello

ELVIS COSTELLO & THE SUGARCANES Elvis Costello may have been born in London, but he's long worn his love for American music on his sleeve—right down to his adopted name. He recorded his first country album, the covers collection Almost Blue, 28 years ago in Nashville, and recently returned to make the new Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (Hear Music). The record's all-star acoustic ensemble, which includes Dobro player Jerry Douglas and close-harmony singer Jim Lauderdale, recorded live in a semicircle around Costello, sounding more like a street-corner string band than a room full of session hotshots. The songs are loosely organized around the true story of the relationships between P.T. Barnum, Hans Christian Andersen, and opera singer Jenny Lind—Andersen suffered from unrequited love for Lind, and Barnum booked her famous American tour in 1850. The band from the album will play that material tonight, but given that other shows on this tour have lasted as long as three hours, it's safe to expect plenty of rearranged hits and selections from Costello's back pages. 8 PM, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook, Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $22-$55. —Bill Meyer

DE LA SOUL Ultra-orthodox hip-hop heads are apoplectic about De La Soul's latest album, Are You In? How could one of the founding groups in the Native Tongues posse—for years the poster boys for conscious hip-hop, consistently prioritizing artistry over commercial success—make a record on commission from Nike? Those guys should chill. For one thing, De La Soul and Nike have worked together before—in 2006 they collaborated on limited-edition Dunk inspired by the artwork from De La's classic debut, 3 Feet High and Rising. And for another, the group's been taking corporate money practically from the get-go—every album they've released till now has been on a major label, and that's never stopped them from pushing the envelope before. Like the other entries in the Nike+ collection, Are You In? is a single extended track meant to follow the ups and downs of a 45-minute workout. It's a fairly lame-sounding concept, but most of the artists who've participated have transcended it to make surprisingly strong artistic statements. De La (and coproducers Flosstradamus) are no exception: in their extended mix, soulful bump fades into electronic spaciness and jazzy interludes mutate into grimy rock numbers, and no matter where the music goes De La's three MCs seem perfectly comfortable with it. For this tour, called "20 Years High & Rising," the group's traveling with a ten-piece band. Kenan Bell and LB Wondur open. 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $26-$28, 17+. —Miles Raymer

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