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Best of Chicago 2013 » Music & Nightlife

Best Old-School Soul Singer Singing New-School Soul-Blues 

Stan Mosley

Not too many vocalists these days specialize in 60s- and 70s-style deep soul. Even on the southern soul-blues circuit, where veterans such as the late Johnnie Taylor forged new careers for themselves in the 80s and 90s, the emphasis isn't on that coarse, gospel-influenced style—instead there's a premium on youthful-sounding voices, supple yet strong enough to stand up to synthesized beats and backing tracks. Chicagoan Stan Mosley has a corrugated rasp and an irony-free emotional directness that hark back to his early deep-soul idols, most notably Bobby Womack, and he refuses the "southern soul" label (he's simply a "soul singer," he insists). But Mosley's earliest successes ("Anybody Seen My Boo," the explosive "Don't Make Me Creep") were released by erstwhile soul-blues powerhouse Malaco, and he remains known primarily along the same circuit that supports soul-blues mainstays such as Sir Charles Jones and T.K. Soul. Mosley also favors the programmed production that most of his contemporaries use, but that gritty voice of his can cut through anything—he can tear open your heart and then seal it back up without missing a beat.

Critics' Picks

Best Hyped Youngsters Who Can't Play Your Neighborhood Bar

Maybe you could persuade a pushover promoter or bar owner to let your band play a 21-and-up spot if only one member is underage. But everyone in this band is a teenager. And the winner is …

Best Rock Band

Onstage they crank up the energy and intensity of the gentle, soulful folk-rock from their album while preserving its gorgeous group harmony singing. And the winner is …

Best Band With a Front Woman Who Looks Hot Even in a Monster Mask

One of Chicago's most interesting bands, both visually and sonically, and they put on a live show you won't soon forget. And the winner is …

Best Gonzo Drum Kit

His tortuously complicated drum kit looks like something you'd find in a medieval dungeon. And the winner is …

Best Band Revived by Reissues

These Zion power-pop pioneers seemed moribund a couple years ago, but a spate of reissues and a fantastic new studio album, all released in 2012, have revived them in a major way. And the winner is …

Best Subversive DJ Who Plays Top 40 Pop

Chicago is a major center for artsy twenty­somethings reinventing underground club culture by recombining 90s signifiers. This person has contributed as much or more than anyone in town. And the winner is …

Best Sound That's Big in Japan

During an April interview on WNUR's Streetbeat, local producer DJ Earl described these scenes as 'blowing up' in Japan. And the winner is …

Best Record by a Tortoise Spin-Off

Within the past year, the best record by one of Tortoise's numerous spin-offs has come from its bassist. And the winner is …

Best Singer-Songwriter Who Appeals to People Who Don't Like Singer-Songwriters

This artist makes a compelling case that being a singer-songwriter is still a worthwhile path for an artist to take. And the winner is …

Best Candidate to Be the Next Angel Olsen

She has been inching onto people's radar screens, and now she seems primed to follow a trajectory similar to Olsen's. And the winner is …

Best New Venue

3111 N. Western Ave.
Since opening its doors in April this venue has hosted a superb array of cutting-­edge jazz, experimental, pop, and contemporary classical music, as well as adventurous dancers and performers such as Ayako Kato and Going Dutch. And the winner is …

Best Place to Hear a Melody Played Out of a PVC Pipe

1564 N. Milwaukee Ave. 773-862-4882
This weekly event is one of the few places in Chicago to meet a guy who's programmed his pedal board with the almost delightful snoring of his cat or a band who build their songs around whatever disquieting wheezes they can coax out of Home Depot's finest PVC pipes. And the winner is …

Best Fallout From a Breakup

No matter what these weirdos get up to, it's worth your time. And the winner is …

Best Old-School Soul Singer Singing New-School Soul-Blues

This Chicago veteran favors the programmed production that most of his contemporaries use, but that gritty voice of his can cut through anything. And the winner is …

Best Reimagining of the Work of Gospel Singer Washington Phillips

The soft incandescence in this music shines a light on the details in Phillips's tunes but doesn't mess around too much with their spirit. And the winner is …

Best Outcall Soundman

At a Yob show in February he turned the Flat Iron into a white-hot doom-­metal blast furnace, and at this year's Dark Lord Day he made High on Fire's stampeding barbarian metal sound as overwhelming outside as I've ever heard it indoors. And the winner is …

Best Kid Guitarist Who Sounds Like Davey Graham

You can't really pin him down to a single style—but why would you want to pin the guy down when he's not even 24 years old? And the winner is …

Best Freak Folker Who Makes Soap and Writes Books of Erotic Poetry

Even if you haven't seen her play, you've probably noticed her around town, with her long dark tresses, psychedelic tattoos, and gypsy adornments. And the winner is …

Best Supplemental Reading by an Avant-Pop Artist

It builds on themes that also turn up in his music, in his stage banter, and in the crude "Summer in Pain" street art he's plastered around town. And the winner is …

Best One-Man Musical Movement

"Soul trap" is the perfect name for the off-kilter but enticing style of this rapper and producer. And the winner is …

Best Synthesizer Geek/One-Man Black-Metal Band

He's released more than a dozen albums in the past six years, including full-band ensemble pieces that stick fairly close to the black-­metal playbook and total avant-garde synth freak-outs. And the winner is …

Best New Label With a Fixation on Charmingly Absurd Formats

There's a monthly lathe-cut seven-inch series, a collection of ambient songs available on floppy disk, a White Mystery flexi that comes with an eight-page coloring book, and a Panda Riot flexi called "Amanda in the Clouds" packaged in a gauzy "cloud sleeve." And the winner is …

Best Metal Bookings

2109 S. State St. 312-949-0121
This club's sound can be frustrating, but the quality of its metal bookings is such that it's still worth going to all the time. And the winner is …

Best Sign That People Are Still Buying Records

3156 W. Diversey 773-654-3915
The shop, run by former Lincoln Hall manager Nick Mayor and his wife, Jen Lemasters (a photo assistant at Threadless), specializes in new and used vinyl with a focus on garage and punk, and it will eventually host regular in-store performances. And the winner is …

Best Forward-Looking New-Music Group

In February it presented the Chicago debut of the Georg Friedrich Haas masterpiece In Vain—probably my most powerful concertgoing experience of 2013. And the winner is …

Best Opera Company Doing Puccini in a Church

Their 2013 schedule included a winter production of Madame Butterfly set in Kenya. And the winner is …

Best Album Featuring the Work of a Chicago-Based Composer

He's helped nurture the ongoing bloom of fierce, forward-looking contemporary-classical ensembles in Chicago. And the winner is …

Best Music School for Graduating Contemporary Jazz Greats

Not everyone on this list graduated, but there's no disputing the talent and vision of the players. And the winner is …

Best Jazz Band Full of Musicians Named Jason

One feature of the scene that's largely escaped notice is the proliferation of musicians whose names start with the tenth letter of the alphabet. And the winner is …

Best Jazz Facial Hair

The whole thing has an almost sculptural beauty. And the winner is …

Best Place for Broke-Ass Musicians to Buy Gear

6019 W. Irving Park 773-545-2020
It's an unflashy place full of unflashy gear, but unless you're making United Center money, flash is less important than solidness and affordability. And the winner is …

Best Scene Documentarian Who Must Never Sleep

I've often gotten home from playing a show to find my band's set, along with every other set of the night, already online for your viewing pleasure. And the winner is …

Best "Found Sound" Music

3600 N. Recreation Dr. 312-742-7673
It sounds a little like the iron Gnawa castanets called qarkabeb in a Moroccan wedding procession. And the winner is …

Best After-Hours Nightlife off the Blue Line

3000 S. River Road
If, like me, you're burned out on craft fairs, art openings, rock shows, and dive bars, look no further than Des Plaines. And the winner is …

Best Simpsons Trivia Night

1708 W. Belmont 773-525-0600
The trivia night (which also has chapters in Toronto, New York, and Pittsburgh) is seriously tough. And the winner is …

Best Bar to Enjoy a Beer With the Superfans

2058 W. 22nd Place 773-847-5515
Stepping into the door of this bar is kind of like jumping through a wormhole in the space-time continuum. And the winner is …

Best Longtime Rock 'n' Roll Ambassador in the LGBT Community

Though the monthly rock 'n' roll shows at Jackhammer ended last year, if the bill is worthwhile, it'll get booked. And the winner is …

Best Sophisticated Nightlife Outside the City Limits

629 Howard St. 773-369-4911
Velvet chairs and pendant lighting? Check. House rules that prohibit both shouting and baseball caps? Check. And the winner is …

Best Pour

2657 N. Kedzie 773-276-7110
Thought to be salvaged from an old Heaven Hill rickhouse that burned down, they're priced at a prohibitive $40 dollars per two-ounce pour. And the winner is …

Best Bar for Teetotalers in the Endless-Keg-Stand-of-a-Neighborhood That Is Wrigleyville

1300 W. Addison 773-477-2900
It's a cozy, calm spot that's kind of like hanging out in your grandparents' basement. And the winner is …

Best Place to Party Like a Baby Boomer (When Baby Boomers Were Young and Fun)

3534 W. Belmont 773-267-LATE
A reason you might end up at this bar on a Friday night hell-bent on having a good time: Alice's was a madhouse. And the winner is …

Best Spot for Hyper-Curated DJ Nights

960 W. 31st St. 773-890-0588
Some programs hit the mark, while others might fail to draw much of a crowd into the cozy space. But the best part is that doesn't even seem to matter. And the winner is …
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)