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Local Releases Roundup

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BITTER TEARS

The Grinning Corpse Who Went to Town | Roydale

Onstage these punk vaudevillians often look like a half-assed circus sideshow--the guys might wear Daisy Dukes or ruffled gowns with their three-day stubble, and sooner or later somebody's bound to dress up as a pregnant pirate or a zombie rugby player. Their colorful, obnoxious music augments rock instrumentation with piano, strings, accordion, and a wagonload of horns, from baritone sax to oboe. They call it "fucked-up folk," which is at least half right--it isn't exactly folk, instead touching on everything from 70s action-film scores ("The Marriage Hole") to sotto voce children's songs ("Grieving"), tear-in-your-beer twang ("Spark of Pleasure"), and Mexican corridos ("Mandaria"). The Bitter Tears are less self-consciously wacky than Ween--they feel genuinely weird, more in line with a cult band like Jon Wayne. Plenty original, if not always listenable. | thebittertears.com

BOUND STEMS

The Logic of Building the Body Plan | Flameshovel

The members of this three-year-old indie-rock band all have respectable day jobs--their lineup includes a high school history teacher, a scientist, an art director, and a corporate financial adviser--but they may not be working them much longer. Though their previous output consists of a single three-song EP, last year's Change Comes at Fourteen and a Half, they've recently become the object of interest from major indie labels like Domino and Barsuk. This new EP is a teaser for Appreciation Night, a full-length the band already has in the can--and tracks like the chugging, dirty-sweet rave-up "Wake Up, Ma and Pa Are Gone" ought to have lots of new Bound Stems fans counting the days till the album comes out next year. The music is smart and ambitious, incorporating a tongue-tying tumble of lyrics on "My Kingdom for a Trundle Bed" and a collage of field recordings on the two-part "Up All Night," but it's also emotionally supersaturated, achieving post-rock's complexity without its aridity or pretension--this is clearly a band bound for greatness, or at the very least bigness. | boundstems.com

ADAM FITZ

Between the Incident and the Event | Is What You Make

This south-side native doesn't have a particularly pretty voice, and his songs aren't immediately engaging--his solo debut is a slow-growing pleasure. A classic singer-songwriter record, full of 70s piano balladry, sad-sack country, and Springsteen-style narratives, it's got the same sort of rootsy bonhomie (and sandpapery vocals) that made Rod Stewart's early Mercury albums so appealing. Fitz opens for Healthy White Baby (see the Treatment) at Schubas on Saturday. | adamfitz.com

JAI-ALAI SAVANT

Thunderstatement | Gold Standard Laboratories

This trio, formerly based in Philadelphia, has seen eight members pass through its lineup in three years, which helps explain why its debut EP is only now hitting the street. They've attracted lots of TV on the Radio comparisons--partly for the tense, swirling prog-pop of tracks like "Scarlett Johansson Why Don't You Love Me," and partly because they're a hipster band with a black front man. (In this case it's Ralph Darden, better known as DJ-about-town Major Taylor.) Their nod to glitchtronica on "Murder Pon the Dance Hall (Part 1)" feels perfunctory and out of place, but they hit their stride on the dub-flecked workout "Diary of the Mass Trappist (Rawar Version)," where guest producer Damon Locks of the Eternals (who also did the cover art) adds a hectoring vocal break. The Jai-Alai Savant are at their best when they mash up 80s pop and underground Jamaican music--the new disc's highlight is the dramatic, danceable "Sugar Free," where they wear their love for the Police on one sleeve and their love for King Tubby on the other. | thejaialaisavant.com

BRAD PETERSON

Brad Peterson | BP Labs Music

Major-label imprints like Elton John's Rocket Records courted Brad Peterson's old band Peat Moss, but those flirtations led nowhere and he dissolved the group in the late 90s. This self-titled disc, which he's calling "The Red Album," is his only output since (excepting a promo-only CD of solo demos in 2002), but he hasn't reinvented himself during his years of silence: he's sticking with the same sort of well-crafted pop he played in Peat Moss. The new album is polite and conservative, all Beatles hooks and light confectionery, but despite missteps like the cocktail-jazz snoozer "Nine," its charming melodies are enough to make it worth a second listen--"I Die at the End," one of the high points, even sounds a bit like the home recordings on Paul McCartney's first solo LP. | bradpeterson.com

TAIL DRAGGER

My Head Is Bald | Delmark

This disc, also available as a DVD, captures James Yancy Jones, a four-decade veteran of Chicago's blues scene, live in concert at Vern's Friendly Lounge on the west side. The tunes here, some of them eight- or nine-minute jams, are sinewy, hypnotizing electric blues obviously influenced by Jones's mentor Howlin' Wolf (who also gave him his stage name). Between songs he offers the audience some words of advice, exhorting them to mind their own business and stay out of trouble--an area where his opinion ought to carry some weight, since he served time for shooting and killing Boston Blackie back in 1993 (they were arguing over the money from a Blues Festival show where they'd both appeared). Jones's outsize personality is the main attraction here--on the CD cover he's wearing a white Stetson and holding a well-chewed cigar in his microphone hand, singing a few inches from the faces of two bemused-looking women. But the sturdy backup band, which includes Delmark regulars Lurrie Bell on guitar and Billy Branch on harp, is nothing to sneeze at; fellow west-side institution Jimmy Dawkins, who wrote the disc's standout song, "So Ezee," plays guitar on the title track. | delmark.com

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Longshot Presents: Civil War Pt. 2 | EV Records

A who's who of almost 40 local MCs and producers--from Pace Won to Profound and Diverse to Doc West--appears on this sequel to the 2004 comp Civil War, which comes packaged with a DVD on the making of the album. Compiled by Longshot and mixed by DJ Risky Bizness, like its predecessor, the disc is an impressive step toward their stated goal of bringing together the city's many hip-hop cliques. North-side backpackers and west-side gangstas contribute to its range of styles and sounds; highlights include Pugslee Atomz's "Haterville," Verbal Kent and Rusty Chains's "Don't Be Mad," Rhyme Scheme's "Big as I Wanna B," and blistering tracks from female rappers Psalm One ("Move") and Ang13 ("Put Me On"). | evproductions.net

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