Music » Soundboard

The List, October 22-28, 2009

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Lake, David Bazan, Broadcast, Kelly Clarkson, Mum, Sin Fang Bous, and more

by , , , , , and



Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Get Up Kids


Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Royal Bangs


David Bazan
Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Shorty Mack


Great Architect
Shorty Mack
Six Finger Satellite




Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Kelly Clarkson
Neon Indian


Los Cojolites
Mum, Sin Fang Bous


CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS Last season's sensational performances of Verdi's Requiem under the baton of Chicago Symphony Orchestra music-director designate Riccardo Muti—"the highlight of my 23 years with the CSO," declared cellist Gary Stucka—should have calmed those who feared that the orchestra was becoming a rudderless ensemble. Muti may not shape the CSO, as Solti and Barenboim did, or shepherd it into new territory, but he will always keep it at the top of its game. For these four performances he'll lead the orchestra in Brahms's German Requiem. The composer wrote it for all of mankind—though its text is drawn from the Lutheran Bible, it's a nonliturgical piece—and among the great requiems it's the most human. Unfolding with incandescent beauty and a resignation that's somehow uplifting, it bypasses intellect, even the heart, and speaks directly to the soul. Brahms's writing for the chorus is to lovers of choral music what the Sirens were to Ulysses, and the CSO's Chorus is always stunning in this piece, though one hopes Muti will coax a bit more warmth from the group. For soloists the director has chosen two relatively light voices: young Swedish lyric soprano Elin Rombo and elegant Canadian baritone Russell Braun. See also Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday.  8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $30-$199. —Steve Langendorf

GET UP KIDS There must be something in the air telling certain emo bands that it's time to reunite—specifically bands the 90s hardcore scene found aesthetically and politically divisive who then saw later groups go multiplatinum by copying their formulas. Otherwise it's just too weird that not even a month after Sunny Day Real Estate came through Chicago the Get Up Kids are touring in support of the tenth-anniversary reissue of Something to Write Home About (Vagrant). Like Sunny Day they can be seen as indirectly responsible for a lot of bad music—they were a big influence on Blink-182, who now loom strangely large over 90s alt-rock history—but despite their frustrating inconsistentency they made some serious jams. There's a reason you can still find their 1997 album Four Minute Mile squirreled away in so many record collections otherwise dedicated to tough-guy hardcore. Kevin Devine and the Life and Times open. The same bill plays an all-ages show at 6:45 PM on Wednesday, October 21. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $26, $23 in advance, 18+. —Miles Raymer


LAKE Ashley Eriksson and Eli Moore might be the contemporary indie-rock John and Christine McVie, a modest supercouple who serve as an axis for a band with a lot of talented folks in its fold. Except in Moore and Eriksson's band, Lake, there is no Stevie Nicks and no Mick Fleetwood, unless you're just talking about how different people dress. Let's Build a Roof, produced by Karl Blau, is the Olympia-based sextet's latest for K Records, and it's sweet, plush, and ornate, with smushed-together post-Sufjan orchestral arrangements (Wurlitzer, marimbas, choral vocal parts, etc). What makes it sound west coast is the sense you get that everyone is just jamming along, feeling it, jazzin' out, not sweating whether the trombone or the strings are exactly on point—it's pleasantly unfussy, but Moore and Eriksson keep that looseness from sliding over into nouveau-hippie vandalism. Blau and Cains & Abels open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. —Jessica Hopper


CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS See Thursday. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $30-$199.

Royal Bangs
  • Royal Bangs

ROYAL BANGS I can't prove that the giant leap in quality between the Royal Bangs' first album (We Breed Champions, self-released in 2006) and the new Let It Beep has anything to do with the morale boost they must've gotten when Patrick Carney, drummer for the Black Keys and proprietor of the Audio Eagle label, discovered them through their MySpace page and signed them—he not only put out Let It Beep but also reissued their debut last year. But where We Breed Champions was a decent slice of disheveled, electronica-tinged indie rock, the new disc adds a fundamental focus and powerful swagger to the band's mix of sparkling Atari-core, upbeat 70s guitar workouts, and roughed-up pop hooks. Carney's band Drummer headlines. 10:30 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12. —Ann Sterzinger


David Bazan
  • David Bazan

DAVID BAZAN I don't think that in 2009 anyone's going to write a more gloriously devastating song than "In Stitches," the closing track of David Bazan's Curse Your Branches (Barsuk). It's a breaking-up-with-God song, like the nine before it, spit with the sort of fuck-you indignation that only comes from having truly loved. It doesn't shy away from its mournfulness and it makes no apologies for its bitterness. The lyrics are freighted with the eviscerating inverse of the blithe spiritual confidence in Dylan's "I Shall Be Released"—Bazan has extinguished his own hope for a heavenly reward, after a long and painful struggle—and with the hopeless, wretched yearning of Van Morrison's "Beside You." Bazan ends by suggesting that God might've bitten off more than he could chew, but ironically, by tackling the loaded and intensely personal topic of his loss of faith and the fallout from it, he's shown a different kind of faith—in music's capacity to convey deep meaning and in our ability to understand it. This is his first full-band tour in more than four years. Say Hi opens. 10:30 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $15, 18+. —Jessica Hopper

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS See Thursday. 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $29-$199.

SHORTY MACK George Bernard Shaw once said that his method was "to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity," and the soul singer's task is to do something very similar. Our greatest soul men and women have addressed the direst travails of the human condition with a musical language fueled by humor, danceable rhythms, and life-affirming irony. Chicago vocalist Shorty Mack (no relation to the rapper of the same name) exemplifies this approach. His set consists mostly of standards—he has a fondness for tunes that lay bare affairs of the (oft-broken) heart—but when he hits his stride his grainy, muscular voice and ebullient demeanor make those old chestnuts sound new again. Patrolling the room, all but demanding that people get up and get their party on, he can turn even a song that on paper looks depressingly blue into an unstoppable good time. And though he does indulge in the sometimes-puerile sexual double entendres of contemporary southern soul (say, Theodis Ealey's "Stand Up in It"), he delivers them with such leathery physicality and bottomless spirit that they sound like something out of the Kama Sutra. See also Sunday. 10 PM, Lee's Unleaded Blues, 7401 S. South Chicago, 773-493-3477, $5. —David Whiteis


GREAT ARCHITECT Great Architect is full of punk and art-rock refugees—saxophonist Brent Bagwell, also of the trio Eastern Seaboard, is the group's de facto front man—but this young North Carolina quartet has developed a strong identity that doesn't betray any particular pedigree. Whether improvising freely or playing pieces with sketched-out themes, they're vigorously exploratory and keenly disciplined, switching from controlled nuance to wild, blown-out energy and then promptly back again. I'm already a fan of Bagwell's grainy upper-register cries, but my first exposure to the rest of the band was Great Architect's recent self-titled debut (a vinyl-only release on Kinnikinnik), and I have to say I'm mighty impressed. Together Casey Malone's jagged, spindly electric guitar and Ben Kennedy's surging, scraping quasi-microtonal arco work on violin and cello fill in the spaces between Bagwell's tart squalls and Michael Houseman's clattery, coloristic drumming—sometimes they seem to be off on their own path, generating thickets of sour harmony, crawling abrasion, or ominous drift, and sometimes they shadow Bagwell, complementing his shapes with intricately engaged accompaniment. North Carolina isn't known for nurturing adventurous improvised music, but based on this auspicious beginning, I'm hoping Great Architect gets enough support to tough it out. Extraordinary Popular Delusions—aka keyboardist Jim Baker, reedist Mars Williams, bassist Brian Sandstrom, and drummer Steve Hunt—play the second set. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

SHORTY MACK See Saturday.  9 PM, Lee's Unleaded Blues, 7401 S. South Chicago, 773-493-3477, $5.

SIX FINGER SATELLITE When Sub Pop was trying to define their postgrunge identity by pushing a seemingly endless supply of Canadian fuzz-pop bands, the label's token weirdos were Six Finger Satellite—on their first few albums they came on like a savage, coke-crazed Bizarro-world Devo. Unfortunately they didn't just sound like they were heavily into controlled substances: bassist Kurt Niemand died of an overdose in 1995, and drugs played a big role in the dissolution of the band's best-known lineup soon after the release of their willfully obscure, intermittently vicious, and entirely fascinating neo-Krautrock masterpiece, 1998's Law of Ruins. Founding members Jeremiah Ryan and Rick Pelletier assembled another version of the group with some guys from Landed—it split up in 2001—and former guitarist John MacLean (better known as the Juan MacLean) and former sound guy James Murphy (who named his PA system Death From Above, or DFA for short) went on to do big things in dance music. Ryan and Pelletier resuscitated the band with new members last year, and they're touring behind a so-so new release, A Good Year for Hardness (Anchor Brain). The Chinese Stars and Sensitive Hearts open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, limited $5 tickets. —Miles Raymer


  • Broadcast

BROADCAST On their first record in four years, English duo Broadcast work with the Focus Group—the musical project of Julian House, cofounder of the Ghost Box label—to delve deeper than ever into the aesthetic of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which has long inspired both collaborators. Formed in the late 50s to provide incidental music and sound effects, the workshop originally relied heavily on tape manipulation and other techniques from musique concrete (it famously created the Doctor Who theme in 1963), then expanded into the ambitious use of early synthesizers. Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (Warp) includes Broadcast's trademark sounds here and there—Trish Keenan's ghostly pop melodies as well as the art-rock amalgam cooked up by James Cargill, who's acknowledged the influence of late-60s band the United States of America—but most of the 23 short tracks are trippy, abstract instrumental collages. Analog-synth squiggles and whinnies snake over stacked and scattered soundtrack fragments culled from what sound like TV programs in every imaginable genre: sci-fi, horror, suspense, drama, nature documentary. Tempos shift and overlap as though someone's channel surfing on two radios at once, and the restless, woozy motion of different elements creates bizarre juxtapositions with a seriously psychedelic feel. Broadcast have a full-length of their own due early next year. Atlas Sound headlines; Broadcast and the Selmanaires open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15, 18+. —Peter Margasak


CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA AND CHORUS See Thursday. 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $24-$199.

KELLY CLARKSON Who'd have suspected that the first season of American Idol would end up giving us one of the best and most outspoken pop singers of the decade, not to mention the closest thing to a loose cannon currently making regular appearances in the Top 40? After a one-two punch of bland-tertainment in 2003 (the box office bomb From Justin to Kelly and her debut album, Thankful), Kelly Clarkson suddenly turned good and got interesting. "Since U Been Gone," the second single from 2004's Breakaway, merged her prodigious voice with the single best slice of polished pop-rock ever devised by Max Martin and Dr. Luke, and the result was so devastatingly awesome that snobs were getting into it even before Ted Leo's cover version made it safe for indie kids. Her 2007 album My December, which she cowrote, ran afoul of label megaboss Clive Davis during production—he was afraid its dark tone and rock leanings would hurt its commercial performance—but instead of backing down Clarkson took the dispute public, and the record came out intact. She worked with proven unit movers for this year's All I Ever Wanted (RCA), but that's hardly proof that the music industry has squeezed the fight out of her: she recently put in-demand songwriter Ryan Tedder on blast when she noticed that the song he'd sold her as "Already Gone" had backing tracks an awful lot like the ones he'd written for Beyonce's "Halo." Eric Hutchinson and Parachute open. 7:30 PM, Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont, 312-559-1212, $49.50-$59.50. —Miles Raymer

Neon Indian
  • Neon Indian

NEON INDIAN Alan Palomo has given the songs on Psychic Chasms (Lefse), his debut as Neon Indian, some trippy titles—"Mind, Drips," "Should Have Taken Acid With You"—but the album's no psychedelic hippie hayride. The 21-year-old Austinite, who's already attracted his share of attention with the 80s-tastic Vega, has made a wistful pop record dressed up in electronic romanticism, evoking not just the MTV soundtrack to your half-remembered high-school make-out session but also the music from the video games you might've taken to playing obsessively after the breakup. The textures manage to be both glossy and scratchy, bringing to mind both Daft Punk and David Sylvian. Palomo captures the vivid inner life of your typical nerd, rather than just the drab exterior. He plays live with a three-piece backing band; the Smith Westerns, the Prairie Cartel, and Members Only AV open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $12, 18+. —Monica Kendrick


LOS COJOLITES This combo from the town of Jaltipan in Veracruz, Mexico, was born in 1997 in a workshop devoted to son jarocho—a regional song form that mixes indigenous, Spanish, and African influences. Workshop leader Riccardo Perry Guillen founded Los Cojolites and now serves as its director; some of the band's members were his students, and others learned the music from their families. They've toured the world and contributed to the soundtrack of the film Frida, and their latest album, last year's digital-only No Tiene Fin (Round Whirled), bursts with spirited singing and ragged soul. Fiercely rhythmic jarana and requinto guitars form a cascading lattice atop the driving bass of a stouter guitar called a leona. The songs usually have little percussion other than the stamping of dancers' feet or perhaps the plunking of a marimbol (basically a box drum with oversize marimba keys), in part because a jarana strummed in the rasqueado style can approximate the busy scratching of a guiro. Los Cojolites are already masterful preservationists, and I hope for their next project they'll find a way to transform son jarocho into a living contemporary genre.  8:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $5 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak

Los Cojolites
  • Los Cojolites

MUM, SIN FANG BOUS Since their beginnings in the late 90s, Iceland's MUM have spun a beguiling web of electronic textures, programmed beats, and idiosyncratic acoustic instrumenation—strings, horns, piano, ukulele, vibes, dulcimer, even an Estonian choir. But on both 2007's Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy and the new Sing Along to Songs You Don't Know (Morr Music) the group has abandoned the convoluted density and wandering, ethereal feel of its early material. The songs are still gentle and playful, but now they're also sharp and lucid, with a prominent pop backbone—and unfortunately this tends to disrupt the spell cast by the fanciful arrangements. I still enjoy Mum's instrumental ideas, but the singing jumps out in an almost theatrical way, allowing the cloying lyrics ("If I were a bumblebee / And you were a puddle / Would I drown in you anyway / In your soggy eyeball") to repeatedly burst the music's bubble.

Fellow Icelander Sindri Mar Sigfusson, a founding member of indie-folk combo Seabear, sounds just as quirky as Mum on his solo debut as SIN FANG BOUS, Clangour (Morr Music). His dense arrangements and catchy melodies have a mysteriousness that Mum's songs have lost, though, and a manic energy they never had. He played everything on the album himself, overdubbing hyperactive percussion, crisply strummed guitar, and a constantly shifting landscape of piano, electronics, vocal harmonies, and more. The riot of colors and countermelodies sometimes suggests Animal Collective's brand of mellow mayhem, and the whole disc bubbles with the giddiness of discovery—it's as though, unable to choose between clean pop hooks and messy sonic play, Sigfusson decided to throw them all in the pot together and see what he could fish out.

Mum headlines; Sin Fang Bous and Hildur Gudnadottir open.  8 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 866-468-3401, $18, $15 in advance. —Peter Margasak

Add a comment