I've got a whole city to hold down

February 14, 2004

All the Wilco news that fits

In the case of Bonnaroo, what started as a jam festival has become an eclectic extravaganza. Either that or concertgoers better get ready for a 25-minute version of "Heavy Metal Drummer." The Tennessee summer fest has announced a chunk of its lineup, and locals Wilco, Neko Case, and (cough) Umphrey's McGee are on the list.

Speaking of Jeff Tweedy & Co., they're also on the Coachella roster. And though we reported last week that the band's new disc was complete, it turns out we jumped the gun a little. In fact mastering, like "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" being handled at Abbey Road in London, is nearly done.

Update: Our neighbors at Pitchfork have a title and release date: A Ghost Is Born, due June 8.

Update II: A source reveals that the new Wilco album will be, a la Being There, a two-disc affair clocking in at 70 minutes. No word on whether one disc is John Stirratt's, or if Tweedy will cause an uproar by insisting on performing in a garish feathered headdress.

February 13, 2004


Added to the Schubas calendar: The Assassins (March 18-19), Neko Case & the Sadies (March 30-31), Preston School of Industry with Earlimart (April 3), and the Sleepy Jackson (April 13). Several of these shows will be part of the club's 15th anniversary celebration, held March 25-April 8. Previously announced anniversary gigs include Southern Culture on the Skids, Josh Ritter, John Gorka, the Decemberists and Cary Hudson.

Daily double

The Ponys make it a clean sweep. They're the focus of Bob Mehr's debut (noted below) and Dave Chamberlain's New City column, too.

Better late than never

JimDeRo gets with Kanye West, dropping a concert recap and album review at once.

Update: We slept on this piece last week, but here's New City's Scoop Jackson on the now ubiquitous Mr. West. Credit to Scoop for getting out front on this one.

Friday buzz

The big story on the local scene is the two-night Urge Overkill reunion (Saturday and Sunday at the Double Door), so DeRogatis chats with King Roeser in the Sun-Times. Jae-Ha Kim covers Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Saturday, Fermilab). And David Jakubiak spotlights the Chicago Music Awards (but neglects to mention that they're, um, irrelevant, if not a total joke).

In the Trib, Kot profiles Swedish metal vets Opeth (Tuesday, HOB). Rick Reger blurbs Nebula, Alicia Keys, the North Mississippi Allstars, DJ Spooky and more.

The Reader's critics picks include the Stereophonics, Numbers, McGarrigles, Marah and others; only locals cited this week is the Chicago Opera Theater. Monica Kendrick's Spot Check hops through pop, rock, roots and soul, plus whatever it is that Lisa Loeb and Dweezil Zappa do.

Our pick for the weekend goes to tonight's bill at the Hideout, with the Thin Man (see Kendrick), spoof-rawkers Mr. Rudy Day, and Kelly Hogan's rockin' soul gang, the Struts.

February 12, 2004

Chicago country: The year that wasn't

Awards week continues with the unveiling of the Nashville Scene's country music poll. Rodney Crowell captured best-album honors for "Fate's Right Hand" and the late Johnny Cash's cover of Trent Reznor's "Hurt" was named top single.

The local angle is that there is no local angle. Chicago musicians and labels alike were absent from the winners' lists with one exception: The Sundowners, a long-running bar band whose 1960s recordings were captured on last year's "Chicago Country Legends" (Bloodshot). That disc finished eighth in voting among reissues, a category topped by the Cash collection "Unearthed."

Lovely Rita

Let the new era begin: The first installment of Bob Mehr's new column, The Meter, in the Reader.

Whole lotta love

The Trib falls all over Kanye West again. Anybody make it to these shows?

More Bonnie

The 4/15 Bonnie 'Prince' Billy show at the Open End Gallery sold out in an hour. Now a second show has been added, this one at the Logan Square Auditorium on April 16. See the Empty Bottle site for more info.

February 11, 2004

Go West

We've been waiting for years for somebody to join Lonnie Lynn in the ranks of hometown MCs made good in the mainstream. Now, just as it seems that Twista might at last have his day in the sun, another hope has arrived. That's former South Sider, recent Roc-a-Fella beat wiz, and tonight's HOB headliner Kanye West, whose long-delayed debut "College Dropout" saw release yesterday.

His hype vows West will merge the backpack underground with the platinum masses (he's a uniter, not a divider), and sure enough "College Dropout" features guest turns by both Jay-Z and Jean Grae. Common and Talib Kweli drop by, too, but the cameos don't overshadow Kanye's smart rhymes or his fun-seeking production.

It should be said that, contrary to our scolding note below, Kot and DeRogatis in fact discussed the disc last night on Sound Opinions. Despite not mentioning it in any pre-show hype, they gave "College Dropout" second billing to Courtney Love's latest. We ask you: Coincidence, or the vast reach of our invisible hands? Okay, probably coincidence.

Anyway, back to West. Kot inks him up good here, and there's a brief Q&A at Metromix. As the more widely read paper on the south and west sides and the only one with a regular hip-hop column, the Sun-Times' silence is deafening.

February 10, 2004


The latest news from Jam includes a third Bob Dylan show, this one a Sunday, March 7 gig at the Vic that follows his previously announced (and immediately sold-out) shows on March 5 and 6 at the Aragon and Riv, respectively. Other new additions to the calendar include the Distillers at Metro on March 25 and Grandaddy with Saves the Day, the Fire Theft and Hey Mercedes at the Riv on April 3.

Ten bucks sez the Distillers gig will be met with unanimous slobbering from local scribes. We saw the band last summer and they were just okay.

How they voted

Here's our stab at a comprehensive list of ballots cast by Chicago-based scribes in the Pazz & Jop poll. Lots of folks apparently did not vote; if we missed anyone, please let us know.

Jim DeRogatis
1. CherryWine, "Bright Black"; 2. Deftones, "Deftones"; 3. Grandaddy, "Sumday"; 4. Macy Gray, "The Trouble With Being Myself"; 5. Longwave, "The Strangest Things"; 6. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 7. Strokes, "Room On Fire"; 8. Thursday, "War All The Time"; 9. Wire, "Send"; 10. Neil Young, "Greendale."

Jessica Hopper
1. Erase Errata, "At Crystal Palace"; 2. Black Peppercorns; 3. El Guapo, "Fake French"; 4. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 5. 50 Cent, "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'"; 6. Distillers, "Coral Fang"; 7. Justin Timberlake, "Justified"; 8. Pretty Girls Make Graves," The New Romance"; 9. T. Raumschmiere, "Radio Blackout"; 10. Mahjonng, "Machin3gong."

Sam Hunt
1. Sufjan Stevens, "Greetings From Michigan"; 2. Bonnie Prince Billy, "Master and Everyone"; 3. Deerhoof, "Apple O"; 4. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, "Pig Lib"; 5. TV On The Radio, "Young Liars"; 6. Prefuse 73, "One Word Extinguisher"; 7. Beans, "Tomorrow Right Now"; 8. Songs:Ohia, "Magnolia Electric Co."; 9. Woven Hand; 10. Neil Michael Hagerty, "The Howling Hex."

Joshua Klein
1. Drive-By Truckers, "Decoration Day"; 2. Head of Femur, "Ringodom or Proctor"; 3. Bubba Sparxxx, "Deliverance"; 4. Basement Jaxx, "Kish Kash"; 5. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, "Hearts of Oak"; 6. Emmylou Harris, "Stumble Into Grace"; 7. Postal Service, "Give Up"; 8. Jay-Z, "The Black Album"; 9. New Pornographers, "Electric Version"; 10. Steely Dan, "Everything Must Go."

Greg Kot
1. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 2. Neil Young, "Greendale"; 3. Basement Jaxx, "Kish Kash"; 4. Cafe Tacuba, "Cuatro Caminos"; 5. Shins, "Chutes Too Narrow"; 6. Lyrics Born, "Later That Day"; 7. Wire, "Send"; 8. Prefuse 73, "One Word Extinguisher"; 9. Dizzee Rascal, "Boy in Da Corner"; 10. The National, "Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers."

Anders Smith Lindall
1. Long Winters, "When I Pretend To Fall"; 2. M. Ward, "Transfiguration of Vincent"; 3. Wrens, "The Meadowlands"; 4. Bonnie Prince Billy, "Master and Everyone"; 5. Brother Ali, "Shadows on the Sun"; 6. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, "Hearts of Oak"; 7. Shins, "Chutes Too Narrow"; 8. Grandaddy, "Sumday"; 9. Patrick Park, "Loneliness Knows My Name"; 10. Fruit Bats, "Mouthfuls."

Peter Margasak
1. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 2. Califone, "Quicksand/Cradlesnakes"; 3. Steve Coleman and Five Elements, "On the Rising of the 64 Paths"; 4. Fiery Furnaces, "Gallowsbird's Bark"; 5. New Pornographers, "Electric Version"; 6. Otto, "Sem Gravidade"; 7. The Bad Plus, "These Are The Vistas"; 8. Jay-Z, "The Black Album"; 9. Delgados, "Hate"; 10. Periya Melam, "Temple de Chidambaram".

Bill Meyer
1. Alistair Galbraith and Constantine Karlis, "Radiant"; 2. Axel Dorner and Fred Lonberg-Holm, "Object 1"; 3. Califone, "Quicksand/Cradlesnakes"; 4. Cat Power, "You Are Free"; 5. Davis Redfor Triad, "Blue Cloud"; 6. John Butcher, "Invisible Ear"; 7. Keith Rowe/John Tilbury, "Duo for Doris"; 8. Ken Vandermark, "Furniture Music"; 9. Six Organs of Admittance, "Compathia"; 10. various, "Wooden Guitar".

Brian Orloff
1. Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man, "Out of Season"; 2. Rufus Wainwright, "Want One"; 3. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 4. Cafe Tacuba, "Cuatro Caminos"; 5. Grandaddy, "Sumday"; 6. Shelby Lynne, "Identity Crisis"; 7. My Morning Jacket, "It Still Moves"; 8. White Stripes, "Elephant"; 9. Basement Jaxx, "Kish Kash"; 10. Annie Lennox, "Bare".

Keith Phipps
1. New Pornographers, "Electric Version"; 2. White Stripes, "Elephant"; 3. Josh Rouse, "1972"; 4. Fountains of Wayne, "Welcome Interstate Managers"; 5. Damien Jurado, "Where Shall You Take Me?"; 6. Gillian Welch, "Soul Journey"; 7. Radiohead, "Hail To The Thief"; 8. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 9. Shins, "Chutes Too Narrow"; 10. Rufus Wainwright, "Want One".

Nathan Rabin
1. Little Brother, "The Listening"; 2. Madlib, "Shades of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note"; 3. Fountains of Wayne, "Welcome Interstate Managers"; 4. Lifesavas, "Spirit In Stone"; 5. Pete Rock, "Lost and Found"; 6. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 7. Viktor Vaughn, "Vaudeville Villain"; 8. R. Kelly, "Chocolate Factory"; 9. Bubba Sparxxx, "Deliverance"; 10. Diverse, "One AM".

Rick Reger
1. Radiohead, "Hail To The Thief"; 2. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 3. Drive-By Truckers, "Decoration Day"; 4. Pernice Brothers, "Yours, Mine and Ours"; 5. Eels, "Shootenanny!"; 6. Buzzcocks, "Buzzcocks"; 7. Robert Wyatt, "Cuckooland"; 8. Tindersticks, "Waiting For The Moon"; 9. Rickie Lee Jones, "The Evening Of My Best Day"; 10. Fountains of Wayne, "Welcome Interstate Managers".

Lloyd Sachs
1. Johnny Cash, "Unearthed"; 2. White Stripes, "Elephant"; 3. Fountains of Wayne, "Welcome Interstate Managers"; 4. Rodney Crowell, "Fate's Right Hand"; 5. Al Green, "I Can't Stop"; 6. Rosanne Cash, "Rules of Travel"; 7. Raveonettes, "Chain Gang Of Love"; 8. Go-Betweens, "Bright Yellow Bright Orange"; 9. Laura Veirs, "Troubled By The Fire"; 10. James Blood Ulmer, "No Escape From The Blues".

Lauren Viera
1. Songs:Ohia, "Magnolia Electric Co."; 2. Cat Power, "You Are Free"; 3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Fever To Tell"; 4. Gillian Welch, "Soul Journey"; 5. Pelican; 6. Death Cab For Cutie, "Tranatlanticism"; 7. Shins, "Chutes Too Narrow"; 8. Joggers, "Solid Guild"; 9. Califone, "Quicksand/Cradlesnakes"; 10. Pinebender, "The High Price Of Living Too Long With A Single Dream".

Kiki Yablon
1. Scene Creamers, "I Suck On That Emotion"; 2. OutKast, "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below"; 3. Led Zeppelin, "How The West Was Won"; 4. Federation X, "X Patriot"; 5. This Moment In Black History, "The Cleveland Finger EP"; 6. Calexico, "Feast of Wire"; 7. Watchers, "To The Rooftops"; 9. White Stripes, "Elephant"; 10. Erase Errata, "At Crystal Palace".

Pazz and Jop poll results

Results of the annual Village Voice Pazz and Jop critics' poll were released today, and OutKast cleaned up, taking top album and top single and placing a second song at #13 on the singles list.

We'll soon have much more on this, including a look at how local critics voted. For now, a rundown of where local acts placed:

(7. New Pornographers, "Electric Version"*)
28. Fiery Furnaces, "Gallowsbird's Bark"
38. Liz Phair, "Liz Phair"
44. R. Kelly, "Chocolate Factory"
93. Califone, "Quicksand/Cradlesnakes"
106. Zwan, "Mary Star of the Sea"
110. Songs:Ohia, "Magnolia Electric Co."
212. Fruit Bats, "Mouthfuls"
228. The Sea and Cake, "One Bedroom"

* Their local ties are admittedly tenuous, what with Neko Case representing just one-sixth of the band and having moved away from here anyway. But half the acts on this list don't get their mail in Chicago, either, so what can we say. Any way you cut it, this is a comedown from last year, when Wilco won the whole thing.

Shocker: Kot, DeRogatis disagree

Greg Kot on Courtney Love's return, "America's Sweetheart": "Though there are flashes of the old switchblade attitude, snapshots of poignance, shards of insight, scattered riffs and moments that briefly suggest she's back better than ever, the album as a whole feels sloppy and overwrought."

Jim DeRogatis takes on the same disc in a feature-length round-up of today's big releases (the others are Norah Jones, Kylie Minogue and Probot). He says Love's latest offers "some of the best music of her career, an album that places a close second to 1994's masterful 'Live Through This.'"

Update: The odd couple will squabble over Miss Love, and some of the week's other mainstream releases, tonight on Sound Opinions. No mention, however, of what's bound to be the best-selling album released today--which also happens to be the work of a Chicago native. That'd be Kanye West's "College Dropout"; here's a good piece from (of all places) a Toronto alt-weekly.

February 09, 2004

Contraction in the retail realm

Feeling the squeeze from the likes of fellow big-box behemoth Best Buy, Circuit City announced today they'll shutter 19 stores, including two Chicagoland locations.

Also today the parent company of Tower Records filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, completing the downfall of a company that's been in difficult financial straits for years. Founder Russ Solomon envisioned and then created a chain of large stores that offered the widest selection and most knowledgeable staff, who in turn were given great leeway to stock the stores as they saw fit; as competition from the big boxes ate away at Tower's profits, however, the corporation abandoned the strategy and tried to streamline operations. As a result, it became just another faceless chain.

Under the bankruptcy deal, the Solomon family will sell all but 15% of the company's shares. At this time there are no plans to close any retail outlets; Tower has two stores in the Chicago suburbs and two in the city, including its renowned North Clark Street location.

All of this news follows the announcement late last month that the Crow's Nest record shop on South State Street will soon be shuttered.

These stories are usually accompanied by a lot of hand-wringing about unauthorized downloading and the damage it does to the record industry. This, of course, is horsepucky. The downloading genie left the bottle long ago, folks, and he's never going back; we'd suggest the industry embrace the technology, invest in its advancement, and find innovative ways to charge reasonable sums for those advances. Oh yeah, and cutting the ridiculous retail cost of CDs would probably help too.

Up close with the Bonnie Prince

Will Oldham (Bonnie Prince Billy, Palace) will play April 15 at the 200-capacity Open End Gallery (Fulton & Damen). Tix available beginning Tuesday, Feb 10, at 10 a.m, with more info to be posted on the Empty Bottle website.

Brother Will has two new recordings on the way from Drag City. They are "Seafarers Music," a four-song instrumental film score that we liked quite well in a proverbial late-night listening session, and "Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Music," which finds the man revisiting favorites from his early catalog. Backed by a gang of Nashville session cats, old friends and new running buddies, the effect is a little like remaking cave paintings in neon.

Strokin' in the Brawlroom

Sez Pitchfork: The Strokes, Aragon, April 23.

Grammy wrap

Not much to report on the local tip, where Buddy Guy (for blues album) and Richard Marx (a co-write on the Luther Vandross sapfest) were the only winners of any note. (Well, a mob of Jeff McPimpsky products probably cleaned up, too, but we'd sooner run naked up North Michigan Avenue than do the research on that one.)

In all, though, it wasn't a half bad year for the Grammys. Statues for OutKast and the White Stripes--plus a kickass reassertion of dominance by one dapper lil purple dude--were enough to make our night.

Update: JimDeRo notes Chicago winner DJ Maurice Joshua.

Update II: This is what overkill looks like.

Update III: The Daily Herald's Mark Guarino chimes in here.

Weekend in review

Friday: We caught the M's with Kim at Schubas. The headliners exceeded the limitations of their EP (below) and left us looking forward to their forthcoming full-length. Liked the three-part harmonies in particular, ragged but not sloppy.

Saturday: Brother Ali at the Abbey was strong as always, but opener Immortal Technique blew our minds. How did we sleep on this guy before? An intense MC with a serious socialist program, and we were far from the only ones feeling his message. (And we better see everyone else at the voting booth on primary day. Click here for voter registration info--deadline is February 17. Word.) Anyway, the Abbey still has no personality and its crew displays just a tenuous grasp of the logistics of running a show, but Sean Duffy books solid hip-hop bills, so we'll take what we can get.

Sunday: Jon Rauhouse and friends at the Hideout. This was like old times at H/O, the back room full of familiar faces. Kelly Hogan and Sally Timms sat in with Rauhouse for a few songs each. Laurie Stirratt warmed up with some Blue Mountain tunes, a couple covers (Kinks, Big Star), and some songs from the disc she recorded with brother John (Wilco, Autumn Defense) for release this spring. She's tentative but finding her legs.

What did you see this weekend?