12 O'Clock Track

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Chicago rapper Adamn Killa deflects insults by turning them into jokes

Posted By on 06.07.17 at 12:00 PM

Adamn Killa - COURTESY OF ADAMN KILLA'S FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Courtesy of Adamn Killa's Facebook page
  • Adamn Killa

Chicago rapper Adamn Killa knows his approach is unorthodox. On his new album, I Am Adamn, he begins standout track "Roof Roof" by imagining how people might criticize his style on the mike: "If I was you I would hate me too / The way I sing it sound like Hebrew / Making all that noise like a mongoose." Adamn half-sings these self-caricaturing lines in such a soporific slur that I occasionally have to pause the song and go back to make sure I've understood him. But the instrumental, by producer UV Boi, brings out the playful defiance in Adamn's rapping—he comes across like a weight lifter getting motivated by scanning himself in a full-length mirror for potential weaknesses. Descriptions that might sound like insults turn into jokes at everybody else's expense.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tompkins Square celebrates a lost classic of fingerstyle guitar with new music by Harry Tausig and Max Ochs

Posted By on 06.06.17 at 12:00 PM

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Many of the best independent record labels mirror the aesthetic of the folks who founded them—if you're going into business because you love music, that's natural enough. It's certainly true of Tompkins Square Records, run by Josh Rosenthal—a devoted record collector, he got started in the music biz in 1989 and launched his own label in 2005. Though Tompkins Square is probably known best for its diverse catalog of fingerstyle guitar music—including the first album by Nashville syncretist William Tyler and a slew of records by British experimentalist James Blackshaw—its total output is incredibly broad. It's put out adventurous jazz by pianist Ran Blake and the late guitarist Bern Nix, archival material from Tim Buckley and Cajun legend Amede Ardoin, vintage gospel, and much more.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

With ‘Off the Clock,’ Chicago rapper Jayaire Woods demonstrates why he deserves a bigger audience

Posted By on 05.31.17 at 12:00 PM

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Chicago hip-hop had a tremendous year in 2016, but despite all the attention local artists got, plenty of great material didn't see the spotlight. Among those unfairly overlooked releases was Free the Fall, the second mixtape from Bolingbrook-based rapper Jayaire Woods. He put it out through Quality Control, the Atlanta indie label that's worked with Migos, Rich the Kid, and Lil Yachty. Woods opened Yachty's solo tour last summer, and I wish he could've benefited even more from the rapid rise of the King of the Teens. On Friday, Woods releases his third mixtape, Big Wood, and its first single, "Off the Clock," came out Monday

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Scrappy Oakland postpunks Rays are the latest discovery from Trouble in Mind Records

Posted By on 05.30.17 at 12:00 PM

Rays - COURTESY OF TROUBLE IN MIND RECORDS
  • Courtesy of Trouble in Mind Records
  • Rays

Sometimes a record label finds a sweet spot, locking  in on an aesthetic that keeps you enthralled. That's exactly what Bill and Lisa Roe of Trouble in Mind Records have been doing for me with one irresistibly hooky rock band after another. Not every act has staying power, and some are unapologetically mining aesthetics developed decades ago, but nearly every Trouble in Mind release over the past couple years has sounded great to me. This time next year I might not still be itching to listen to the self-titled debut from Oakland four-piece Rays, which came out in late March, but right now it's doing a killer job kicking off my summer.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Charming indie-pop duo Water From Your Eyes help celebrate the first year of Our Music My Body

Posted By on 05.24.17 at 12:00 PM

Water From Your Eyes - LUCAS DARLING
  • Lucas Darling
  • Water From Your Eyes

Last spring local nonprofits Between Friends and Rape Victim Advocates joined forces to address sexual harassment in the music scene with a campaign called Our Music My Body, which has since tabled at the Pitchfork Music Festival as well as shows at Subterranean and Beat Kitchen—during Riot Fest the latter also hosted an OMMB panel about confronting harassment. Tonight Beat Kitchen celebrates the campaign's first anniversary with a benefit show featuring an eclectic lineup of locals: indie-rockers Grandkids, rapper Lin Z, neosoul instrumentalist Kopano, and indie-pop duo Water From Your Eyes.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

At long last the African music from Ali and Foreman’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ sees release

Posted By on 05.23.17 at 12:00 PM

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Ever since I saw the wonderful 1996 documentary When We Were Kings, about the legendary 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in the Congo (formerly Zaire), I've been curious about the prefight concert, which took place over three nights in Kinshasa. The fight itself ended up delayed by five weeks after Foreman sustained a cut near his eye while sparring, but the music went on as planned on the original dates, September 22 through 24, drawing a crowd of 50,000. Billed as Zaire 74, the Kinshasa event mixed marquee names from American soul, blues, and R&B—including James Brown, B.B. King, the Spinners, Bill Withers, and the Crusaders—and Latin-music heavies Celia Cruz & the Fania All-Stars with a top-flight roster of Congolese talent. The original film touched lightly on the concerts, but another great movie, 2009's Soul Power, gave the music its own showcase. Unfortunately, the film focused almost exclusively on the visiting artists, with scant mention of the locals.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

West-side rapper ZMoney refines his effortless cool on the new album Heroin Bag

Posted By on 05.18.17 at 12:00 PM

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West-side rapper Zernardo Tate, aka ZMoney, broke out in 2013 on the strength of two mixtapes (Rich B4 Rap and Heroin Musik) and the effortlessly euphoric "Want My Money," which Chance the Rapper used in a short promotional video for the release of Acid Rap that April. It's hard to believe that was four years ago. Since then the spotlight has ricocheted around Chicago's hip-hop scene, illuminating blossoming labels such as Closed Sessions, emerging media outlets such as Lyrical Lemonade, and what sometimes seems like dozens of rising artists—Noname, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Lucki, Cupcakke, and many more. Throughout these dizzying changes, ZMoney has focused on refining the style and persona he first developed—the changes he's made to, say, his mush-mouthed rapping feel incremental, but he performs with a stronger grasp of his abilities.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chicago rapper Lucki sounds like he knows there’s no time to waste

Posted By on 05.10.17 at 12:00 PM

The artwork Lucki used for his two recent releases, Watch My Back and Days Be4 Storm
  • The artwork Lucki used for his two recent releases, Watch My Back and Days Be4 Storm
Late last month local rapper-producer Valee dropped 1988, a mixtape that draws strength from its brevity. Valee's songs often last less than two minutes, and he packs every second with his sui generis personality. Last week Lucki followed suit with the full-length project Watch My Back, whose tracks are almost as short—many barely pass the two-minute mark. Lucki's rapping can make it feel like time has slowed to a crawl, and on Watch My Back he doesn't adjust his drowsy flow much—he's more blunt, though, and sometimes he colors his monotone vocals with a whisper of urgency. Somehow he keeps his music sedate while suggesting that he's on edge.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Chicago art-rock band Crown Larks juggle joy and darkness on the new ‘React’

Posted By on 05.03.17 at 12:00 PM

Crown Larks - GREG REIGH
  • Greg Reigh
  • Crown Larks

Since launching in 2010 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Already Dead Tapes & Records has kept up a busy schedule. The label, which now operates out of Chicago and Brooklyn as well, has dropped almost 250 releases. This Friday number 249 arrives: Population, the second full-length by local art-rock band Crown Larks (a collaborative release with Satellite Records).

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Urgent Jumping! collects east African dance classics—including the frantic benga of the Golden Kings Band

Posted By on 05.02.17 at 12:00 PM

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Over the past few months I've regularly basked in the liquid guitar, sensual singing, and seductive grooves of Urgent Jumping! East African Musiki Wa Dansi Classics (Sterns). The two-disc, 27-track anthology consists of music recorded mostly in Kenya and Tanzania between 1972 and 1982, a golden era when ideas flowed freely from Congo toward the eastern coast. Along the way Congolese soukous mingled with local traditions: in Kenya the result was called zilizopendwa, in Tanzania zilipendwa (both terms translate roughly as "golden oldies"). Programmed by DJ and curator John Armstrong, Urgent Jumping! covers a lot of ground, including bits of Kenyan benga and various strains of Tanzanian funk and R&B.

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Steve Earle & the Dukes Maurer Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music
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