Monday, September 30, 2013

Cross Record signs with Ba Da Bing! Records

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 05:00 PM

Emily Cross
Cutup that he is, Reader music writer Peter Margasak recently forwarded me an e-mail press release from Ba Da Bing! Records and exclaimed, "Your prophecy is coming true!" What he meant was that the Brooklyn-based Ba Da Bing! had just signed former Chicago band Cross Record—and in this year's Best of Chicago issue I had proclaimed front woman Emily Cross the "Best Candidate to Be the Next Angel Olsen." (In hindsight I kind of regret the category name because it seems dismissive towards Cross. Her music doesn't really sound like Angel Olsen's; I meant it more as a comment on her impending success.)

The label is a good fit for Cross's haunting, occasionally experimental mix of drone and folk. Its impressive alumni include the likes of Sharon Van Etten, Six Organs of Admittance, and Beirut, and the current roster features Xenia Rubinos, the Dead C, and Lady Lamb the Beekeeper. It's a haven for singer-songwriters, but definitely not the type you'll find at an open mike Monday. Ba Da Bing! is currently planning on distributing the 300 remaining vinyl copies of the awesome Be Good (I eyed one at Saki during my last visit), as well as releasing the album on CD for the first time. Cross Record, now located in Austin, will be releasing the follow-up on Ba Da Bing! as well.

The entire Be Good album was once available on Cross Record's Bandcamp page, but now you're just going to have to deal with a sampler. Them's the breaks, I guess.

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Do new chef collaborations mean Billy Dec is growing up?

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 03:40 PM

Billy Dec and bro at Chicago Gourmet.
  • Billy Dec/Facebook
  • Billy Dec and bro at Chicago Gourmet.

If you were to rank Chicago's restaurateurs by their desire to see their own faces in publicity, one end would be marked by the reclusive Brendan Sodikoff and the other by Billy Dec, star of Windy City Live!, wearer of hipster hats, online bro personality and, oh yeah, owner/personification of Rockit Ranch, which has the Rockit bars, Sunda, ¡Ay Chiwowa! and others. Read his online bio or his Facebook page and the line between reality and parody instantly dissolves—his Facebook self-image is a Burberry bus stop ad he was in, the extremely white Dec somehow won "the Asian American Hall of Fame Award," and the top story on the Rockit Ranch homepage is that Lady Gaga dined at Sunda recently, as well as Anne Burrell and Michael Bay (exactly the sort of random semicelebrity pairing we Chicagoans get excited about; maybe next week George Wendt and Ruth Bader Ginsburg will check it out together).

Lots of people make fun of Dec for his oversized, kind of goofy bro-life (assuming it's not, in fact, a cover for fighting crime in a batsuit at night), but you know, this is the bar and restaurant business, not nuclear physics, so why not have somebody like him on the scene? It's all good, and the worst that can happen is that in a city of ten million taco places, you wind up at ¡Ay Chiwowa! eating the queso fundido the Reader's Sam Worley described as "near impenetrable with the tools you've been given: four minitortillas, with the option to order four more for three dollars." A missed opportunity, but not a tragedy in the grand scheme of things.

But two new chef hires suggest that Dec, whose last opening was the typically cartoon-concepted, quickly closed and never-officially-declared-dead Dragon Ranch Moonshine & BBQ, might have his ambition set a little higher for his next venture.

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It’s all over now, baby blue: A Breaking Bad chat

Posted By , and on 09.30.13 at 03:08 PM

Breaking Bad
  • Breaking Bad
After the final episode of Breaking Bad, a few of us met in the cold-care aisle of the neighborhood drug store in order to discuss how it all went down. Many spoilers follow.

Kevin Warwick: So, let's discuss how clean-cut and satisfying the episode was.

Sam Worley: Was it too satisfying?

Mara Shalhoup: That's the big question. But here's the deal: we've been inundated with these ambiguous, meta endings to great TV shows. This wasn't that.

SW: But Breaking Bad has always been a more ambiguous show than most, especially in the last season, where the theme seemed to be "consequence." I feel like they just sort of wimped out a little here. But it was still very fun to watch.

MS: Wimped out how? Too tidy? The consequences for Walt were extreme.

SW: It was so easy for him in this one, though! He just kinda walked in and blew everyone away.

MS: He lost the love and admiration of his wife and son. That is the hardest thing imaginable.

SW: I think Vince Gilligan backed himself into sort of a corner in terms of the timeline—there was just so much that had to be resolved in the last episode.

MS: The amount of satisfaction in the first 15 minutes had me smitten.

KW: I loved the car scene, when he hit the window and knocked the snow off. Old-school Heisenberg.

MS: When I saw that, I got really sad—because it's one of those lovely, subtle things that seems to only happen in Breaking Bad, and I'm going to miss that.

Then there was Gretchen and Elliott's banter. Straight outta Portlandia. I wanted them to die just for that.

KW: Walt wandering around the house casually stalking them was so good.

SW: I wished (and hoped, after Gretchen and Elliot's return in the penultimate) that the show had developed a little further the idea that the impetus for Walt turning into a sociopath wasn't the cancer diagnosis, but whatever happened to him at Gray Matter—that that laid the groundwork, and cancer was the, um, spark. (Ugh, metaphors.)

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Waking up to Young Detective Dee

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 02:39 PM

Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon
  • Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon
I can't comment on how the new Tsui Hark film, Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, plays with a Friday-night crowd; but in a near-empty multiplex at 10 AM on a Sunday, I found it to be great fun. Colorful, silly, and egregiously phony, it went down like a breakfast feast of Pop-Tarts, Fruity Pebbles, and about a half-dozen kinds of ice cream. It may not be as good as Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (but then, what is?)—the special effects are cruder here, and Mark Chao, in the title role, doesn't hold a candle to Andy Lau. But Tsui's will to entertain is as strong as ever, ditto the filmmaker's relationship with his inner eight-year-old. Not since grade school have I laughed so hard at a piss-drinking joke. And, as in much of Tsui's work, the frequent lapses in narrative logic feel less like the result of laziness than of an irrepressible enthusiasm. Like a child making up a story for his friends, Tsui will throw in all the best ideas that come to him, regardless of whether they fit. A parasite that turns people into monsters like the one from Creature From the Black Lagoon? A mad scientist with the arm of a gorilla? Why not!

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Oktoberfest shootout: Metropolitan, Revolution, and Two Brothers

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 02:00 PM

Two Brothers Atom Smasher, Revolution Oktoberfest, and Metropolitan Afterburner
  • Two Brothers Atom Smasher, Revolution Oktoberfest, and Metropolitan Afterburner
According to The Oxford Companion to Beer, in 1553 a Bavarian ordinance decreed that beer be brewed only between September 29 and April 23. Thus beer consumed in September and October would often have been brewed in March—or in German, "März," which still gives a particular style of lager its name. Interestingly, at least to me, the lower fermentation temperatures employed by Bavarian brewers near the German Alps, who used cellars or caves to lager their beers in the summer months, resulted in the inadvertent selection of strains of cold-tolerant, slow-working yeast centuries before the science of microbiology existed.

Anyway. Oktoberfest lagers are traditionally Märzenbiers; strictly speaking, they must come from one of six designated brewers in Munich and conform to the Reinheitsgebot (aka the German Beer Purity Law). Obviously the term "Oktoberfest" isn't policed too aggressively in this context, though, given the proliferation of Oktoberfest and Oktoberfest-style beers all over the States in late summer. For the past couple decades Europeans have preferred golden Oktoberfest lagers, but Americans expect an Oktoberfest to be richly toasty and deep copper in color, like the beer that made a sensational debut at the world-famous Munich festival of the same name in 1872 and dominated it for decades afterward.

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Baseball—healthy as can be, yet dying

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 01:17 PM

Fans are still chasing home run balls at Wrigley.

Years ago, when I was a sophomore at a new high school, I visited the Toastmasters club one afternoon and was immediately assigned to make a speech. Terrified, I reduced the possibilities for a topic to the one subject I'd actually thought about in my young life—baseball. And feeling a need to say something provocative—and possibly even original—about baseball, I decided to make a case for why it was doomed. I have no idea what my arguments were: all I can remember is standing at the front of the classroom shaking while the club's upperclassmen studied me like a bug on a pin. I persuaded no one. But I was right. Baseball was doomed. It was then—and continues to be. The proof is that our nation's finest minds have been writing off baseball ever since.

I spotted the latest exercise in Sunday's New York Times. "Is the Game Over?—How baseball lost its place in American culture" announced the headline to the lead article in the Sunday Review section. The author, Jonathan Mahler, acknowledges up front that he's making a tricky case, as Major League Baseball profits, over the past 20 years, "have grown from roughly $1 billion to nearly $8 billion." He goes on, "The game, in other words, has never been healthier. So why does it feel so irrelevant?"

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Best shows to see: Julianna Barwick, Prism, Atoms for Peace

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 12:30 PM

Julianna Barwick
  • Julianna Barwick
It's October tomorrow, which means, among other things, the concert calendar will start to fill up with local acts covering beloved bands to celebrate Halloween. There's 31 days before All Hallow's Eve and plenty of concerts to check out before then. Tonight there's Ms Mr at Lincoln Hall, Mac Blackout Band at Empty Bottle, and, if you feel like staying in but want to see some "live" music the folks behind SPF420 are hosting DJ Earl and Traxman (who just dropped a new album, Teklife Vol. 3: The Architek) on Tinychat.

Tomorrow night you can check out Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at House of Blues, Langhorne Slim & the Law at Lincoln Hall, Dan Croll at Empty Bottle, or Electric Six at Double Door. On Wednesday there's Sam Amidon at Old Town School of Folk Music, Katatonia and Cult of Luna at Bottom Lounge, and Ra Ra Riot at Double Door. Be sure to check out Soundboard for more concert listings for the week ahead, and read on to see what Reader critic Peter Margasak has recommended for the next few days.

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12 O'Clock Track: Vic Mensa's stupid-catchy romp "Lovely Day"

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 12:00 PM

Vic Mensa
  • Vic Mensa
Happy Vic Mensa day, everyone. His long-awaited Innanetape drops at 3 PM, and the release has all the makings of a capital-M moment. The project's latest leak, "Lovely Day," is a stupid-catchy romp full of piano jabs, rolling drums, and orange soda that comes complete with Top Gun, Rugrats, and Moulin Rouge jokes. If it evokes Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap, that's because executive producer Peter Cottontale has a master plan. It's also because Vic invented these flows before his best friend ever headlined a tour—and the inventor has mastered them. No longer do Vic's rhythms feel unhinged. He's tweaking but completely in the pocket. "Urban disturbin' turban totin' terrace smokin' potent." Which is to say that "Lovely Day" is a lovely single, but also that the 19-year-old goes savage.

I stopped by his Adidas-branded release party on Saturday at the Bakery in the Lacuna lofts and was honestly expecting there to be more buzz. The crowd that had showed up, dominated by filmmakers, bloggers, streetwear-boutique owners, and Save Money soldiers, weren't acting like they were on the precipice of something great. To them it's always been a foregone conclusion that Vic would break out. He was the one posting YouTube videos before any of his friends ever hit a booth. This is the star student. And now it's his time.

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Did you read about Walmart, Danny Brown, and IKEA?

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 11:32 AM

Walmart reinstates full time jobs
  • Courtesy Wikicommons
  • Walmart reinstates full time jobs
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• That sheriff Tom Dart told "60 Minutes" that jails and prisons have become "the new insane asylums?" Mick Dumke

• That Walmart is bringing 35,000 workers back up to full time? Gwynedd Stuart

Complex's immersive feature on Danny Brown? Leor Galil

• About how Sara Josephine Baker revolutionized medical care through her work in the New York City Health Department in the early 20th century? Tal Rosenberg

• That documentarian Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight, Inside Job), has decided to scrap a documentary about Hillary Clinton after catching hell from both political parties? Ben Sachs

• That IKEA, purveyor of ready-to-assemble bookshelves and coffee tables, is now selling solar panels in its UK stores? —Drew Hunt

• That Bard College now offers applicants the option to forgo a standard application and submit four research papers instead? Tal Rosenberg

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On the cheap: Japanese-Korean at Albany Park's Cafe Orient 33

Posted By on 09.30.13 at 09:30 AM

Daeji bulgogi, Cafe Orient 33

It's time to move on. I've become tired of mourning the long slow death of Koreatown in Albany Park and its orbit. It wasn't very long ago that the neighborhood housed three large Korean groceries, great bars like the Hourglass, and terrific restaurants like Kang Nam and Hai Woon Dae (actually in West Rogers Park, but bear with me). So I was heartened to learn from Steve Dolinsky that Gogi, a promising new barbecue place, had opened in Hai Woon Dae's deserted space (more on that in a few weeks). Between it and the opening of quick-serve Cafe Orient 33 in the half-deserted strip mall just north of the intersection at Kedzie and Lawrence, it's almost time to imagine a Korean renaissance in the neighborhood.

Nah, probably won't happen. But Albany Park still remains the city's center for gampongi, those spicy-sweet deep-fried chicken wings that keep Chinese-Korean spots like Great Sea, VIP Restaurant, and Peking Mandarin going strong. Cafe Orient 33 has them too, as well as a number of basic Japanese-style dishes and iconic Korean ones at extremely low prices in a spare counter-service operation next door to the great Jaafer Sweets (which makes for a great one-two punch).

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