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Things I Love

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lillie West tells secrets but keeps them on Lala Lala’s lucid, cryptic new The Lamb

Posted By on 09.19.18 at 06:00 AM

Lillie West of Lala Lala - ALEXA VISCIUS
  • Alexa Viscius
  • Lillie West of Lala Lala

Lala Lala were the first band I saw after I moved to Chicago in 2015. I was 18 and nervous, camouflaged under the low ceiling of Humboldt Park basement venue Pinky Swear in what I hoped was the universal cool-kid uniform, right down to the scuffed low-top Dr. Martens and can of PBR. In the abrasive guitar and intricately coded autobiographical lyrics of Lala Lala front woman Lillie West, I found a pocket of the Chicago underground rock scene that I could see myself in—I've been a fan ever since.

The band will probably never lose their affection for basement shows, but these days they can play legitimate clubs too—in fact they're headlining the Empty Bottle on Friday, September 28, to celebrate the release of their second full-length, The Lamb, via Sub Pop offshoot Hardly Art.

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Noise punks Running and jazzy folk guitarist Ryley Walker release an unexpected collaboration

Posted By on 08.24.18 at 12:01 PM


New York label Dull Tools, run by members of Parquet Courts, has given the world a tape of an unlikely Chicago collaboration: four untitled instrumentals by noise punks Running and pastoral jazz-folk guitarist and singer Ryley Walker. In 2016, which now feels like a lifetime ago, Walker and all three members of Running holed up in the home studio of engineer Cooper Crain (from Cave and Bitchin Bajas) and laid down the tracks on Running & Ryley Walker. (They'd initially plan to title it Walking, and I'm still sorry they didn't.)

The songs' variety of styles—nasty, fried ambience, dissonant Krautrock, rhythmic postpunk—find a bizarre middle ground between the two artists' sounds, less harsh and more controlled than Running but far more raw than Walker. The tape's highlight is the second track: its simple, pushy psychedelic punk showcases mind-bending guitar interplay between Running's Jeffery Tucholski (those are his explosive blasts of distortion in the left channel) and Walker (whose complex chords dance in the right channel). They bounce off each other beautifully—as you can hear below.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

Let us now praise Alan Rudolph

Posted By on 08.20.18 at 06:00 AM


One reason I was so enthusiastic about Azazel Jacobs's The Lovers, one of my favorite movies of 2017, was that it reminded me of the work of writer-director Alan Rudolph. Employing funny, literate dialogue and graceful camera movements, Jacobs created a heightened sense of reality in which it seemed natural for people to fall in love on a whim. This effect, and the means Jacobs used to achieve it, seemed straight out of the Rudolph playbook, something few filmmakers have bothered to consult since he stopped making movies in the early 2000s. (Rudolph ended his 15-year silence last year with the indie feature Ray Meets Helen; unfortunately no one in Chicago bothered to screen it, but it's now available to watch online.) I've often wondered why that is—Rudolph's distinctive blend of screwball comedy, film noir-style purple dialogue, and musical-like visuals yielded so many memorable movies (among them Choose Me, Trouble in Mind, The Moderns, and Love at Large) that I'm surprised no one tried to rip it off. A few 21st-century films have come close to achieving what Rudolph did in his winning streak of 80s and 90s—The Lovers, Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love—but what makes them successfully Rudolphesque is the way they follow their own intuition. Perhaps Rudolph's work is simply inimitable.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hardcore throwdown the Rumble returns after five years, picking up the change where it left off

Posted By on 04.25.18 at 05:58 PM

Long Island band Incendiary, pictured here at a March show booked by Dutch festival Northcote, are one of the main attractions on the Rumble’s Saturday bill. - VIA DAVIDSE/FLICKR
  • Via Davidse/Flickr
  • Long Island band Incendiary, pictured here at a March show booked by Dutch festival Northcote, are one of the main attractions on the Rumble’s Saturday bill.

When I suggest to Shane Merrill that the hardcore festival he founded might have some similarities with This Is Hardcore—the enormous three-day spectacular in Philadelphia booked by "Joe Hardcore" McKay—he gives me a wry laugh. The head honcho of Empire Productions, who started the Rumble in 2010, came up in the potent late-90s Chicago hardcore scene, and he's founded several bands over the years, including the Killer (in 2001) and most recently Young & Dead (in 2013). But despite his long history in the community, he knows that This Is Hardcore is doing something above and beyond what he hopes to accomplish this weekend, when he brings the Rumble back for two days at Cobra Lounge.

"I don't have aspirations to ever do it on the scale that Joe does. It takes six months out of his year," Merrill says. "Still, he's done such a good job at educating young kids. One King Down is headlining a day this year—which is amazing to me. There will be these new kids unfamiliar with that band, but by the time they play that show it's going to be off the chain."

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Oakland’s Once & Future Band stage a battle between obnoxious prog and massive hooks

Posted By on 04.23.18 at 04:24 PM

Once and Future Band: Raj Ojha, Raze Regal, Eli Eckert, and Joel Robinow - JAPHY RIDDLE
  • Japhy Riddle
  • Once and Future Band: Raj Ojha, Raze Regal, Eli Eckert, and Joel Robinow

I listen to music for most of every day, every week, and I can say without hesitation that the majority of music released today shouldn't be. Though professional and competently played, it's so generic—so lacking in passion or purpose—that I don't know how the musicians involved can imagine that anyone would bother to engage with it. It's not that I'm too jaded to hear value in anything anymore—rather, I've learned how much genuinely interesting new music is being made, and I don't want to waste my too-scarce hours on anything else. Most of the time I can make clear distinctions between what I love, what I hate, and what I think is merely serviceable, but once in a great while an artist defies even that most basic kind of categorization. Oakland's Once & Future Band have been tying my brain in knots since last fall, when I first heard their self-titled 2017 debut—released, like the new four-track EP Brain, via the Castle Face label run by John Dwyer of Oh Sees.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Local punks Problem People offer the first taste of their next album with a spooky new video

Posted By on 02.23.18 at 07:00 AM

Problem People: Aaron Turney, Michael Petrucelly, and Chris Clark - JESSICA MATUSHEK
  • Jessica Matushek
  • Problem People: Aaron Turney, Michael Petrucelly, and Chris Clark

After Chicago pizza-rock garage ragers Party Bat called it quits, bassist and singer Chris Clark and guitarist Aaron Turney recruited drummer Michael Petrucelly to form Problem People in 2014. Shedding the zany antics of Clark and Turney's previous project, Problem People swing straight for the gut with heartfelt punk that channels the melodic sensibility and rough-around-the-edges attitude of midwestern greats past and present, including Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, and the Honor System. Their self-titled 2015 debut LP should've been an instant classic of Chicago punk, and soon the city will have another chance to properly appreciate this band: they released news of their follow-up album today.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Deranged new post-Cacaw band Lilac debuts with the demo ‘Kiss the Corpse’

Posted By on 12.12.17 at 07:00 AM

Lilac's new demo
  • Lilac's new demo
Local sludge-metal/noise-rock freaks Cacaw called it a day in 2011. Upon their collapse, half the band—Zack Weil and Kyle Reynolds—started Oozing Wound with Unmanned Ship bassist Kevin Cribbin. The other two members, guitarist-vocalist Anya Davidson and bassist-vocalist Carrie Vinarsky, backed away from music to focus on their visual art. Davidson is a comics artist—in the past few years she's written and drawn a book's worth of the strip Band for Life as well as the graphic novels School Spirits and Lovers in the Garden—and Vinarsky is on the grind as a tattoo artist.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

The Jesus Lizard live and in color

Posted By on 12.11.17 at 12:33 PM

Is your microphone cord tough enough for David Yow? - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Is your microphone cord tough enough for David Yow?

If you have Jesus Lizard fans in your social-media feeds, you've probably seen lots of cell-phone photos and videos from Saturday's concert at Metro. I even posted a couple myself. But would you care for some professional photos? Actually in focus and everything? How fortunate for you, then, that Bobby Talamine shot the show for the Reader.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Reclaiming the Oreo, the Twinkie, and other iconic American desserts with BraveTart

Posted By on 08.16.17 at 06:19 PM


There's a moment in every American life when you decide, for nostalgia's sake, to revisit some of the processed food you loved as a kid. And then you realize after the first couple of bites that it's . . . not that good. The lovely stuff of dreams has somehow become a chemical nightmare.

That's America: the taste of disillusionment and disappointment. Or, in the case of Twinkies and other treats made with animal fat, the American ideal that you can never have if you deviate from the cultural norm.

Fortunately, we have Stella Parks, a pastry chef and senior editor at Serious Eats, who has made a career out researching and rehabilitating American desserts, particularly those that are mass-produced in factories. According to her Serious Eats colleague J. Kenji López-Alt, she has the power and skill to make a homemade bowl of Lucky Charms that taste not like actual Lucky Charms, but like a childhood memory of Lucky Charms, which is infinitely better.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

PJ Harvey played the set of a lifetime at Pitchfork

Posted By on 07.16.17 at 12:22 PM

  • Danielle A. Scruggs
  • PJ Harvey

Last spring, when Prince died, I wrote about all the near misses I'd had trying to see him perform live. I never managed it, and in writing that piece, I couldn't help but start a mental inventory of other great artists I had yet to see—a sort of "please don't kick the bucket" list. On that list, PJ Harvey is definitely near the top. So when Pitchfork announced this year's festival lineup, she became my must-see.

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