Chris Mills, Niall Connolly | Schubas | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Chris Mills

Chris Mills

Chris Mills, Niall Connolly Recommended Soundboard

When: Fri., Jan. 24, 9 p.m. 2014
Price: $15, $12 in advance
New York singer-songwriter Chris Mills (a onetime Chicagoan) met producer and multi-instrumentalist Christer Knutsen in 2009, while traveling in Norway with bassist Ryan Hembrey. Knutsen was playing in a small bar a few hours from Oslo, and Mills was impressed by his music; as it turned out, Knutsen was already a fan of Mills’s work. They began working together, and Knutsen ended up producing and playing on Mills’s first new album in five years, Alexandria (Loud Romantic), bringing along Norwegian drummer Konrad Meissner, who was also on that bar gig in 2009. Mills was part of Chicago’s alt-country scene during its heyday, but aside from the rootsy eloquence of “Helpless Bells” (which includes some wonderful harmony singing), on the new record he’s shed the twang in favor of genre-neutral material. I’m a fan of the uptempo material, where Meissner’s hurtling rhythms and Knutsen’s garage rock-flavored organ inject Mills’s pretty melodies with raw energy. I’m less convinced by the carpe-diem power ballad “Rubicon,” which reminds me of Elton John at his most mawkish. Mills’s singing has markedly improved: in place of his studied southern drawl, he’s doing something more precise and full-bodied (occasionally too full-bodied, as on the overripe, sentimental “The Sweet Hereafter”). Mills has always been a boisterous live performer, and these shows, with the same band that made Alexandria, ought to scuff up the music’s smoother edges. —Peter Margasak Niall Connolly opens.

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