The local music scene is never at a loss for producing a bounty of strong
D.I.Y. releases and promising demos, but the best of what I've heard in
recent months comes from a trio called Central Standard.
Characterized by its driving rhythms, fractured New/No Wave melodies and
the endearingly manic-panicked vocals of guitarist, songwriter and New
Orleans transplant Frankie Ostello, the five-song EP "Uniforms" stands as a
remarkably impressive debut for a self-recorded D.I.Y. release. The group
just played a handful of record release parties, but hopefully it will be
posting some new dates soon on its Web site, www.centralstandard.info,
which also offers free MP3 downloads of instantly infectious songs such as "Ruiner"
and "Heart of Chicago."
My choices for coolest bubbling-under sounds continue with Mira Mira,
the nom de CD of keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter Charlie Williams. Fans
of the blissful electronic/ambient pop of the Album Leaf or Sigur Ros should
love the entrancing album "Midnight for You," recently released via Ickydog
Music. For live shows, Williams is joined by three fellow musicians on
synthesizers, drums and cello, which should make Mira Mira's music even more
seductive on stage than on record. It performs at Uncommon Ground, 3800 N.
Clark, at 9 p.m. Feb. 16. Visit the group on the Web at www.ickydog.com/miramira/.
"Whatever you do, please don't call me smooth jazz," Evanston
pianist-vocalist Lisa Lauren wrote when she sent along a copy of her
new album, "Lisa Lauren Loves the Beatles" (Planet Jazz), and that's fair
enough: Her jazz re-imaginations of 14 Fab Four classics have more than
enough soul and adventurous musical spirit in them to preclude tepid
adjectives such as "smooth" or "lite." In fact, the electronic remix of "The
Word" that closes this disc, th guest David Sanborn on sax, is better than
anything heard on the recent, much-hyped "Love" album. Lauren and her band
perform at 8 tonight at Davenport's, 1383 N. Milwaukee, or visit her on the
Web at www.lisalauren.com.
Goat Motor begins the bio on its Web site (www.goatmotor.com)
with the Wikipedia definition of "power trio," and within the first 30
seconds of "Law Man," the opening track on its self-titled 10-song album, it
pretty much covers all the bases of what a hard-driving, vintage '70s power
trio ought to do, giving us massive rhythms (complete with cowbell),
deliriously fuzz-drenched, Marshall-amplified guitars and rip-roarin',
whiskey-tinged vocal expressing bad-boy disdain for officers of the law.
Good stuff, and the group brags that it's even better onstage; find out when
it plays a record release party at 9 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Kinetic Playground,
1113 W. Lawrence.
Heavy in a very different but no less effective way is yet another
hometown trio, Planetstruck, which has just issued a pummeling,
pounding and thoroughly punishing five-song EP that finds a middle ground
between the doom/stoner-rock subgenre and the artier noise-rock experiments
of the Melvins. Surf over to the group's Web page (myspace.com/planetstruck9)
and the titles of its songs will give you a hint of what you're in for:
"Eating Staples," "Drooling" and "The Ham and Eggs Fire." Better yet, listen
to the music, which more than lives up to the weird promises.
On an untitled 13-song collection of his basement home recordings,
Evanston singer, songwriter and one-man band Conor Madigan tips his
hand regarding one of his prime influences by not only covering the Zombies'
"After He's Gone," but giving us a version of "Andorra," a beautiful solo
track by Colin Blunstone. The Zombies' ornate, artfully orchestrated and
harmony-laden pop is a hard sound to replicate, especially when you're
working alone in a home studio, but Madigan does a great job of it, and his
originals are ha derivative, following in a proud tradition of inventive
romantic pop, and ranging far enough afield to include one fetching
instrumental, "Drunken Pigeon," recorded entirely on a MicroMoog
synthesizer. Madigan doesn't seem too fond of the idea of live performance
-- he notes that another hero is Dusty Springfield, in part because of her
stage fright -- but maybe a little encouragement will bring him out of the
The trio of Chicago rappers known as Trump Tight
proclaim themselves winners with the name of their crew -- in hip-hop lingo,
somebody is "trump tight" if they're holding nothing but trump cards -- as
well as the title of their new album, "The Greatest Show on Earth." Its 15
well-produced tracks don't quite live up to all the boasting: The mix of
gangsta posing and brainless party grooves is too derivative at times of two
of the group's self-proclaimed heroes, the Wu-Tang Clan and N.W.A., while
there isn't enough evidence of the third, OutKast. But Sean Flynn, Michael
Harris and James White are skilled rappers driven to make their music and
their Trump Tight Records label succeed, and with a bit more work at forging
their own sound, they could.
Less slick in its production (as befits the mixtape format) but more
original and uplifting in its lyrics is the latest from longtime
up-and-coming West Side rapper Mick Luter, "The Micks Tape: Hustle
Harder Vol. 1." Luter has been a promising voice on the local scene since he
won the Source's Unsigned Hype Battle in 2000, and he's recorded with the
likes of Lupe Fiasco and Slum Village. He's overdue for his moment in
spotlight, and tracks such as "Bless the Bottle" (which can be heard on his
Web site at www.myspace.com/mluter) provide all the evidence that's
English indie-rock heroes Art Brut gave the Chicago quartet Team Band
a shout-out at last year's Pitchfork Music Festival, and you can hear why:
Singer Greg Drama is like Eddie Argos' American cousin. Drama can't really
sing, either, but he throws himself into the music heart and soul, has a
great sense of humor and spurs the band to keep things moving in
irrepressibly melodic pop-punk fashion. I fell in love with the band midway
through the first song on its seven-song "Rock & Roll" EP, a tune called
"Bond" that found Drama intoning, "I'm Bond / I'm so bloody James Bond /
You know, baby, I'm cool as ice / And twice as nice." They played last
night and don't have another show listed on their Web site (www.jointeamband.com),
but I'm keeping an eye out for upcoming gigs.
Finally, keyboardist-vocalist Sima Cunningham may only be 16 years old
and a junior at Whitney Young High School, but she's already fronted two
bands -- Sima Cunningham and SmazE recently changed its name to the
Audians -- and released two DIY recordings, including a new six-song EP
produced by Brian Deck. Cunningham is an incredibly powerful and
self-assured performer, with a smoky, sexy voice -- if that's legal to say
at her age -- that more than does justice to the alternative country sounds,
which feature an alluring underpinning of Cajun rhythms and melodies. Visit
the Audians on the Web at www.theaudians.com.
Local bands can send music to Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic, Chicago
Sun-Times, 350 N. Orleans, Chicago IL 60654.