A late-January local release roundup | Bleader

A late-January local release roundup

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Supertoy has the best cover art of 2012 so far
  • So far Supertoy has the best cover art of 2012
Due to some last-minute wrangling, the local release roundup I wrote for Thursday's paper didn't end up in print—and I've got lots of other stories lined up that are too good to push back. So instead of running it later or just letting it fall by the wayside, I'm posting the whole roundup—featuring everything from quirky hip-hop to suburbanite rock—after the jump.

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Down There
Shake House EP

Even if you're the type of person who tries to keep in mind that taste is just a matter of taste, you're bound to have certain favorite acts where the greater world's indifference to them feels objectively wrong to you. I think the last couple of records by the Race did a kind of gothy, electronics-enhanced rock music not only really well but with a refreshing lack of self-consciousness about how gothy it was, but most people don't seem to think they were as supercool as I do. The group's mastermind, Craig Klein, dissolved the project after the release of 2009's underappreciated Exiles, but he's recently started Down There, a new two-piece fronted by LA-based singer Kim Mackin, that does everything good that the Race did but even better. Recorded with Telefon Tel Aviv's Josh Eustis before his relocation to Los Angeles, Shake House nails a complex assemblage of influences running from Detroit techno to Pretty Hate Machine to the recent wave of minimalist electro producers, and keeps the pop quotient high throughout—I could see it bringing a lot more people around to Klein's vision. He'll start selling the EP through the Down There Bandcamp page soon—sometime before his DJ gig at the Charleston on Mon 2/6, which is followed by a live Down There performance at Danny's on Tue 2/7.

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JaeBeez
Fashionably Late EP

Supertoy
"The Lobster Jam"

The primary reason that labels large and small are in such bad shape is no doubt that consumers are abandoning their role in the economic model that the music-selling business has followed for its entire existence, but it's artists abandoning that model that will really finish the industry off. Keeping up just with the music being released for free by Chicago acts requires me to trawl Bandcamp and SoundCloud on a regular basis, and I find a lot of good shit doing so. For example, this repeat-listen-worthy three-song set by local MC JaeBeez, which commingles the knotty, tongue-twister flow of 90s NYC street rappers with a taste for psychedelic sonics in line with the Odd Future crew's druggier moments. "Shootah" nods musically and lyrically toward Biggie at his darkest and most blunted-existential, and "Hold It Up, Wait a Minute" on rides a big, wild-out Beastie Boys sample that all but guarantees property damage if you put it on at a party after midnight.

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Or for instance the brilliantly raunchy "Lobster Jam" by local rapper-producer Supertoy. While hip-hop's recent artsy emo phase has produced a lot of incredible music, it's also left a lot of listeners hungry for bumptious funk jams like this. The beat, which boasts a surprisingly funky Chuck Mangione sample, is skronky and big-boned, and Supertoy's boast that "I met this chick on Facebook, she gave me the meanest head / From the computer to her mouth like Seamless Web" is the cleverest, geekiest, and most perverse food-sex metaphor I've heard outside of an MF Doom record. A full-length album, Lobster, is set to drop soon.

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Del Dot
You Can Play These Songs With Cords
(Nueva Forma)

There are certain stylistically transient musicians who share a habit of developing a really interesting sound, playing around with it for exactly one album, and abandoning it before listeners have had enough. For instance, Aphex Twin may have felt he'd said all he had to say with the paradoxical hyperspeed chill-out dream 'n' bass of his Richard D. James Album in 1996, but I and a lot of other people thought very much the opposite, so that a whole subgenre of musicians has developed around our need for more. Local electronic musician Anuj "Del Dot" Girdhar uses James as a jump-off point to investigate some of the sonic achievements that have occurred since its release (he includes "dubstep" and "chillwave" among the tags on his Bandcamp page) as well as a few that happened a good while before (70s prog, ambient). The important things are that he fits the influences together tastefully—no Skrillex-style midrange wobble breakdowns—and that he never moves too far away from that all-important soothing glitch.

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Grand & Noble
Grand & Noble
(self-released)

There's nothing inherently contradictory about entertainers steering for the middle of the road while keeping their brains plugged in; it's just that not many try, since mindlessness will never not be the easiest path to mainstream popularity. Grand & Noble, the brainchild of Floridian-turned-Chicagoan Jon Elling, seems custom built to appeal to listeners in the upper range of lower-middlebrow taste—people who dig on the past four decades of pop music except for the parts with the loud guitars or rap beats, and who have enough of a grasp of what's up to be unsatisfied with the dead-eyed state of adult album alternative radio. I may not share their tastes, but they're people too, and they deserve something better than Gavin DeGraw. Grand & Noble's blend of the most accessible parts of Fleetwood Mac and Death Cab for Cutie with the subtle influences of an untold number of crossover country acts is surprisingly challenging and never condescending.

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