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The annual race to crown the greatest albums of the year produces so many lists that you'd think every half-decent piece of music would turn up on at least one of them. But of course plenty of excellent albums escape notice—especially albums by artists whose audiences are mostly local. With that in mind, here are my top five overlooked releases by Chicago acts.
Old Fuck, Old Fuck (self-released) Old Fuck make doom for people who like hardcore—one moment they're playing a heaving, crawling riff, and the next they're pouring on the speed with a charging blastbeat. The four songs on Old Fuck careen between funereal sludge and caterwauling punk, and sometimes they take a little from column A and a little from column B for a rugged, bracing, and thoroughly fun sound.
M.I.C, Next 2 Blow (self-released) Chief Keef helped put the drill scene in the national spotlight, but dozens of Chicago artists are still waiting for their share of it. West-side trio M.I.C were indulging in a bit of wishful thinking when they titled this mixtape Next 2 Blow, but its accessible street rap—which combines sleek and sumptuous synths, rattling drums, and booming bass—certainly deserves plenty of attention.
Sun Splitter, III (Bloodlust) Sun Splitter make sinister experimental doom from lumbering riffs and brittle licks, robotic drum machine that sometimes sounds like clanking chains, vocals that alternate between haunting harmonies hanging in the distance and bristling growls muffled by fuzz, and of course lots of feedback. But thanks to the band's knack for Krautrock-style repetition and drive, the music is as mesmerizing as it is assaultive.
Upholstery & Carpet Cleaning, Slow Cloud (Old Lane Sign) On his album Slow Cloud, Upholstery & Carpet Cleaning main man Matthew McGarry uses bouncy rhythms, jangly guitars, walking bass lines, playful piano melodies, and sprightly drumming to give his hooky, endearing pop-rock tunes a lively kick.
Birth Deformities, Suburbanized (Cowabunga) The guys in Birth Deformities clearly love early-80s hardcore: the tumultuous Suburbanized is packing with pogoing bass lines, rapid-fire drumming, razor-sharp guitar, and barked vocals. But they're not just playing a cookie-cutter version of the style—they've got a distinctive looseness, when their focused aggression sounds like it's about to unravel into chaos.