by Leor Galil
I'm a sucker for Halloween-themed music events (or at least the idea of them), which means I need to start making plans to get to the Portage Theater soon. Starting sunday the Silent Film Society of Chicago hosts its Silent Horror Film Festival there, which will feature organist Jay Warren providing a live score for The Phantom of the Opera, The Hands of Orlac, and The Monster. If you're looking for more straightforward musical performances there are plenty of great opportunities for that in the coming week.
Tonight Secret Chiefs 3 swing through Double Door and Actress hits Smart Bar. Tomorrow night Big Freedia brings an ass-shaking party to Concord Music Hall and Nas pays a visit to the Venue at Horseshoe Casino. On Saturday Mewithoutyou play all of Catch for Us the Foxes at Bottom Lounge and Tiesto does his thing at the Mid. On Sunday Lvl Up headline Beat Kitchen and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy get down at City Winery.
There are plenty of other great shows to see—you should comb through Soundboard for all our concert listings and read on for some more picks from Reader critics. If you want to listen to some of the artists mentioned in this post scroll to the bottom of this page and take a listen to our weekly "Best shows to see" Spotify playlist (and follow us on Spotify).
"Todd Snider must have spent a lot of stoned hours listening to Alice's Restaurant, because his wigged-out hippie persona—part acid-tongued truth-to-power troubadour, part concussed stand-up comic—seems at times more Arlo than Arlo," writes Noah Berlatsky. "But where Guthrie stuck mostly to folk revival with an occasional foray into easy listening, Snider's musical reach is more ambitious. His semi-supergroup covers project, the Hard Working Americans, whose first album was released earlier this year, bangs out cheerful blues-rawk with charmingly unassuming unsubtlety. It's a nice change, but his solo albums remain superior, mixing some of that rock energy with folk, country, and Tin Pan Alley, witty lyrics included. The clunky, clanky swing of 'The Very Last Time' is one of his best efforts, with his half-cracked goofiness coming across as both ironic distance and poignant befuddlement. 'I had a dream when you came to see me / You asked if I was OK / That's how I knew that I was dreaming / You asked me if I was OK.'"
"Brooklyn-based singer Sharon Van Etten has steadily grown in confidence and strength since her wonderfully modest 2009 debut, Because I Was in Love, and she drives that home on the recent Are We There (Jagjaguwar)," writes Peter Margasak. "As usual her songs dive headfirst into the painful side of love, depicting with grueling fidelity the way devotion and desire can blind the rational mind. Her lovely voice can cover a greater emotional and expressive range than ever, which seems to have tempted her into melodramatic excess on the stormy piano ballad 'I Know' and the overstuffed anthem 'Tarifa.'"
One of my favorite hip-hop releases of the year is Mick Jenkins' The Water[s]: "The 22-year-old takes resplendent soul-influenced instrumentals and binds them to revealing observations of black kids catching stray bullets—with his personable, relaxed flow providing the vehicle for complex rhymes about street violence and racism. The Water[s] is well executed right down to the flexible, overarching concept of water acting as both a life force and a source of knowledge. Jenkins assembled the tracks so that they flow together just right. 'Dehydration' and 'Healer' invite listeners not only to unwind and breathe in the ambience, but also to settle in for the rest of the tracks—because the mixtape is a filling six-course meal." Saba, who made one of my other favorite rap releases of the year, also performs.
"On his new record, Double Youth (Asthmatic Kitty), Helado Negro (aka Roberto Lange) dips deep into 80s-style new romanticism, topped off with a dose of low-key R&B," writes Peter Margasak. "His bilingual lyrics are delivered in a cool but sensual croon—like a dime-store lounge lizard who believes in every syllable that drips from his lips. Most of the sounds were produced at home on a computer, and Negro has wisely tweaked his rather thin voice with crafty multitracking, occasionally bringing in a trio of background singers to enhance the sultry curves and curlicues of his muted melodies. His lyrics are filled with cooed come-ons, promises, and declarations of sadness, as he expresses sorrow and hurt and pleads for an unnamed lover to take a chance."