Caribou, Junior Boys, Russian Futurists | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Caribou, Junior Boys, Russian Futurists

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The latest CARIBOU album is called The Milk of Human Kindness (Domino), and most of its songs are named after animals ("Hello Hammerheads," "Lord Leopard," and so on), but I still like to imagine that the title's a sarcastic dig at old New York punk Handsome Dick Manitoba: Caribou mastermind Dan Snaith, who used to record under the name Manitoba, had to pick a new alias last year after the former Dictators front man threatened to sue. It's hard to imagine that Handsome Dick thought anybody might confuse the two: Snaith's stuff is layered with spacey Silver Apples synths, earnest Beach Boys harmonies, and surging drum breaks. Snaith puts his albums together by himself, using a computer and a stack of records, but he's taken steps to distance himself from the laptop set: he tours with two confederates, Ryan Smith and Peter Mitton, and the three of them play all the parts they haven't left to the computer, switching between keyboard, guitar, and two drum kits. They're leaving the bear masks at home this time, but they will project cartoons on a screen. --Bill Meyer

The sedate new wave of synth pop spearheaded by the Postal Service generates its frisson with the chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter combo of indie tunes and IDM beats. But Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus, aka the JUNIOR BOYS, construct tracks that are all of a piece, which short-circuits the cheap thrill of hearing two genres at once--they've got nothing to hang on to but their hooks. Two winters back the Ontario duo made a splash with two great ones: the four-note synth figure that drips like rain atop "High Come Down" and the fluttering arpeggio in "Birthday" that sounds like something from Hall and Oates's "I Can't Go for That." Nothing else on Last Exit (Domino), the full-length where those singles eventually found a home, is quite as unforgettable, but it's all plenty tuneful, with intricate but not distracting keyboard patterns prickling up from below. And Greenspan's vocals--sometimes warmly anonymous in the fine New Order tradition, sometimes soulful in a trying-not-to-wake-the-roommate way--prove that "tasteful new wave" isn't necessarily an oxymoron. --Keith Harris

The RUSSIAN FUTURISTS are hands down my favorite indie-pop band of the decade. Matthew Adam Hart, who writes, performs, and records all the Futurists' material in his Toronto home, just released his third album, Our Thickness (Upper Class), and he's yet to write a clunker. His first two full-lengths--2000's The Method of Modern Love and 2002's Let's Get Ready to Crumble--were welcome discoveries for those of us who think Stephin Merritt blew it after Get Lost, parting the Magnetic Fields' billowing clouds of reverb and fuzzy synth melodies to reveal that the great and powerful Oz was a depressive Tin Pan Alley fetishist with a large collection of ukuleles. Like Merritt's early work, the Futurists' saturated-tape home brew crackles with tragic romanticism: songs like "Still Life" and "2 Dots on a Map" bounce, tremble, and swoon with alternating surges of joy and pain. On the road Hart's usually joined by three other synth players; the last time they played here they all wore pastel polo shirts and arranged themselves onstage by height. --J. Niimi

Caribou headlines, the Junior Boys play second, and the Russian Futurists open. Tue 6/7, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

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