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Photo Courtesy of Saddle Creek Records

Stef Chura, French Vanilla, and Sean Green Rocked the Botttle

On July 5th, Stef Chura and friends took over The Empty Bottle for some good tunes and good times. And what a night it was! Bric-A-Brac Records sent over their loveliest DJs who kept the party going between sets, featuring the best “rock, pop, and slop” tunes you could imagine.

First up, Chicago-based crooner Sean Green graced the stage with his charming confidence. Self described as “millennial jazz,” Green’s set included his take on Sean Kingston’s 2007 classic “Beautiful Girls,” his new single “Driver,” and a closing acapella song featuring the beautiful harmonies of his very own mother! With the upcoming release of his new EP “Perfume Hill” and his Single Release Party later this month, Sean Green is certainly a local artist to keep an eye on.

https://soundcloud.com/sean_green/driver

With this being their first night of many on tour with Stef Chura, French Vanilla effortlessly hypnotized the crowd with groovy tracks that had us all dancing along almost instantly. French Vanilla describes their sound as a “feminist art-punk that tackles the complexities of identity, imagination and voice from a marginalized perspective.” You can check out their latest release, “How Am I Not Myself,”  here.

https://youtu.be/sjkf-P0i7VI

As the clock struck midnight, Stef Chura graced the stage. Featuring some songs off her latest EP ironically titled “Midnight,” Chura flew from song to song without missing a beat. As she seamlessly shifted between moments of sharp energy and soft emotion, Chura’s dynamic performance did not disappoint. Listen to the new EP here, and catch me at her next show in Chicago, more info here

https://youtu.be/s0X5tCHTJvg

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WLUW's Pitchfork Festival Preview

It's already July, and WLUW has been gearing up for Pitchfork Festival by running giveaways, playing your favorite artists performing at Pitchfork on-air, and of course, reading up on all of this year's acts. WLUW staff has chosen some of our favorite artists that are performing this year, and created a summary of that artist and what we think you should know about them. 

Belle and Sebastian

By: Allison Lapinski

Belle and Sebastian fans should be excited to learn that the band will be playing its 1996 album If You’re Feeling Sinister in full for their Pitchfork performance. The Scottish band, led by Stuart Murdoch and Isobel Campbell, is no stranger to Pitchfork. In 2013, the music newsite released a documentary under the name of their 1996 masterpiece. The band's music is bookish in how Murdoch fictionalizes the lives of ordinary people into songs. Other successful albums include Tigermilk (1996) and The Boy with the Arab Strap (1998). The band is also set to release an album this year, Days of the Bagnold Summer. Belle and Sebastian's folk-rock anthems will be a sure crowd pleaser in Union Park later this month.

Flasher

By: Paul Quinn

Instead of sleeping in and showing up late to day 3 of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, treat yourself to a nice brunch (because after two days of a fest you deserve it!), drink plenty of water, and go see Flasher perform. Hailing from the D.C. post-punk scene, Flasher offers a familiar sound to the likes of Gang of Four, Preoccupations, and NE-HI. A first listen to Flasher and it is hard to hear a trio pull off songs with many layers, and seeing the recorded tracks translate to a live performance on a Sunday afternoon is something I sure won’t be missing. Some stand-out tracks that I dig are “Love Me”, “Business Unusual”, “Winnie”, and “Destroy”. Flasher’s latest record, Constant Image, is out now on Domino Records.

Grapetooth

By: Lauren Manini

The two roommates Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni, with an origin in Chicago, make up the duo known as Grapetooth. Formerly, Frankel was (and still is) part of another well known Chicago band, Twin Peaks, while Bailoni was expecting a future as a producer after college. The two started making music on their own just as roommates messing around, which led to jokingly nicknaming themselves Grapetooth after their fondness for wine, and drunkenly playing opening acts before even releasing any official music. On November 9 of 2018, the duo finally released their self-titled album consisting of 10 unique tracks ranging from some head banging bops you can scream along with to some smoother tunes that you can sway to. Their new wave, indie rock style of music is unique and it will be exciting to see where Grapetooth’s future takes them, considering Frankel is still an active member of Twin Peaks. But as of right now, the duo knows how to put on a good show and will undoubtedly rock our worlds on the opening day of Pitchfork.

Trizah

By: Jamie McMillin

London-based singer-songwriter Tirzah Mastin (right), who performs simply as Tirzah, and producer and composer Mica Levi (left), of Micachu and the Shapes, met in music school, and have been good friends and musical collaborators ever since. The duo’s long-running friendship has blossomed into a fruitful collaboration that highlights that talents of both. Tirzah writes songs that are at once caring and demanding. On the Coby Sey-featuring “Devotion” Tirzah flatly states “I’m not looking for reactions / I’m not looking for acceptance,” just before crooning “I want you arms / your kisses, your devotion.” Her songwriting has a sense of intimacy to it that can quickly snap from tenderness to anger, and back to tenderness. Levi’s sparse and punchy arrangements serve as the barest skeletons needed to hold up Tirzah’s emotional performances. Although Levi isn’t working with that many moving parts, she arranges them in complex and intriguing configurations without drawing attention away from her musical partner. The two are expected to perform with Coby Sey, who lent his voice and production to Trizah’s debut full-length Devotion. Make sure to catch their set if you’ll be at the festival on Saturday.

Snail Mail

By: Morgan Ciocca

Lindsey Jordan, the 20-year-old musician and lyricist behind the artist Snail Mail, earnestly lays bare all feelings for the world to hear in her striking debut album, “Lush”. 

“Lush” is a 10-song anthology of teenage angst and heartbreak – in the best possible way. There is something about the album’s unpolished yet masterful sound that is startlingly and enchantingly raw, so sincere in its emotion that you can’t help but stop in your tracks to take it in.

Jordan evokes all the essential parts of crooning emotional 90s indie rock combined with a twinge of teenage heartbreak pop – think Liz Phair crossed with “Breakout”-era Miley Cyrus – with, of course, her own unique spin on it.

As she was trained on classical guitar from a young age, I can’t help but think of “Lush” as Jordan’s form of rebellion against the traditional formalities of classical music. Jordan’s music is anything but formal; her clear and heavy voice permeates through the synthetic veil that is oftentimes placed between music and listener, creating a sort of familiarity which classical music tends to lack.

Listening to “Lush”, I feel like I’m transported back to high school, upset for reasons I can’t remember anymore but felt like the end of the world at the time, lying on my bed with headphones in. If Jordan had released “Lush” back then, it would be playing on repeat.

Snail Mail will be taking the stage at Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park on Sunday, July 21.

Black midi

By: Scott Clancy

In the last few years, the indie rock scene out of London has delivered a solid group of guitar slinging bands recontextualizing, reimagining, and playing the tried-and-true, beloved style of alternative rock and indie punk through the viewpoint of a new generation. Groups like Fat White Family, Shame, Goat Girl, or Sports Team have channeled the social and political, teenage pomp and emotional gush, riffs and rock & roll cool and crunchy guitars to build up an exciting scene we love to keep checking back in on for the latest English indie...but none of it matters now...because...have you heard Black Midi? These kids (I mean KIDS - they have baby faces) marry the twang, bombast, darkness and humor, light and shade of the heaviest math rock and experimental guitar tones all into the debut album Schlagenheim, out on English institution, Rough Trade. Check them out at Pitchfork, check out the odd vocals, the screeching guitar distortion, the godlike drumming of Black Midi.

 

JPEGMAFIA

By: Zoe Drellishak

JPEGMAFIA, known to fans as “Peggy”, is Brooklyn-born Alabama-raised Baltimore-loving man who creates music along with raps that touch on current topics like the racism he experienced during his childhood. Peggy started creating music while in the military when he learned how to sample music in Tokyo. His beats are comparable to none other, and it would be a SHAME to miss his set at Pitchfork. Go turn on ‘1539 N. Calvert’ by JPEGMAFIA, a smooth listen. ‘Baby I’m Bleeding’ has a Death-Grips-esq sound with more meaningful wording. ‘I Cannot F****** Wait Til Morrissey Dies’ is a song that contains lyrics just as intriguing as the title. Catch him at 3:20PM on Sunday @ Pitchfork.

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WLUW Presents California Surf Rock Outfit, No Vacation

Last Saturday marked the end of San Francisco beach-pop band, No Vacation’s, headlining US tour with special guest Okey Dokey. Wicker Park’s Subterranean was packed with young fans sporting Hawaiian shirts and sunburns from the full-sun day in Chicago. I wandered in during the conclusion of the first opener, a small Michigan band. The crowd seemed eager for the main act, yet receptive to the indie grooves from Nashville band Okey Dokey. Lead singer Aaron Martin worked the packed room, even jumping into the pit and running up the stairs to the top floor of the sold-out show. Their single “Wavy Gravy” felt very 80s-meets-2019 and grabbed the attention of the audience despite a couple of hecklers in the corner of the room.

 

The room filled with anticipation for the main act’s appearance. No Vacation made their debut in 2015, splashing on the scene with their single “Draem Girl.” The band’s signature surf-rock and bedroom pop sound has admittedly matured over time. In 2017, the band released “Intermission,” an EP that includes a fan favorite track, “Yam Yam.” The band is comprised of frontwoman Sabrina Mai on vocals and guitar, Marisa Saunders on bass, Nat Lee on synth, Harrison Spencer on guitar, and James Shi on drums.  Their last appearance in Chicago included a live recording at Audiotree, which is available to stream. 

 

A week before coming to Chicago, WLUW caught some words with a few members of the band as they traveled to their Seattle show. 

 

WLUW: First off, how is tour going so far? Any new cities or places that you have played along the way?

 

Harrison Spencer: Well we went to Tampa, so that was pretty cool. 

Sabrina Mai: We went to hang in the springs in Florida. 

Nat Lee: Tour life is pretty much what tour is. Compared to what the last tour was, this is our first headlining tour so it’s a lot different now. We have someone doing sound for us, our friend Cooper is behind the board on sound and he’s also tour managing and he makes our lives just a lot easier being on tour. We can just show up and play music and not actually be responsible for anything else really (laughs).

 

WLUW: Oh for sure, that must be a nice change in pace, not having to worry as much about the details. 

 

Harrison: (joking) Oh we’ve told him like five times that we’ll just send him on a plane home.

 

WLUW: And you’re doing the cross-country tour of the US then?

 

Nat: Oh yeah we’re doing a full US run from May through June.

Sabrina: And then we’re just going to drive over to Europe. And we also have floaties so… (laughing)

Nat: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve been following the tour but I’ve ordered some floaties. And since we’re from America we also wanted to travel on a bald eagle to Europe. But the best way might be by floatie.

Harrison: You know, we’re really just very patriotic people!

Nat: We won’t even be in the United States for Fourth of July, we’ll be floating over to Europe. We’ll be in open territory, where the pirates are.

 

WLUW: Speaking of the ocean.. for me, there is a layer of escapism to your music, I’ll be listening to one of your songs in the dead of winter but it feels like summer.  Are you guys working on a new project right now and will it build off of those sounds?

 

Nat: Come to the show and you’ll find out!!

Harrison: We do have a new EP that we will be putting out soon in August entitled, “Phasing.” And I think that it’s got some escapism in there. Light, summery tracks. 

Nat: This whole tour is for us to really promote new music and we’re testing out some new tracks to see how people feel about it, and we’ve gotten really great responses so far.

Harrison: There will be a single out soon, we just finished mastering that.

 

WLUW: Awesome, can’t wait to hear it! I love your cover of The Cranberries, Linger, that you released not too long ago. Is there any special reason for choosing that song? 

 

Nat: Well we were commissioned to cover that record in September 2017. 

Harrison:  It took a long time to get that done. We took it on as a light and fun project but it turned out to be a long endeavor. 

Sabrina: It took a long time to figure out what we wanted to do as well.

Nat: We were thinking Green Day, Daft Punk, Starf***er

Harrison: And then we eventually settled on Dolores O'Riordan (of The Cranberries). And when I mention her name, people either know automatically who I’m talking about or they pretend they know who that is

 

WLUW: Oh I’ve been there. When in doubt, just nod and smile. So you guys met as a college band, correct? 

 

Sabrina: Yeah we met at USF. (University of San Francisco) 

Nat: (joking) Well Harrison and I met through frat life. Actually, though Harrison and I met through Facebook because Sabrina and Harrison are a year younger than me. So I would help him out with pre-college Freshman year questions. 

Harisson: And then you stalked me.

Sabrina and Nat: Well your profile picture was of you playing bass.

Nat: And then the first week of school Harrison messaged me and asked me where the parties were at, so we went to a party together. But he was kicked out because he was a freshman. We eventually came together as a band because Sabrina and I met through band class. 

Sabrina: You were the banjo girl. 

Nat: I played banjo at that time. I was also apparently a hippie. Harrison dressed like a frat dude. Sab dressed in like trenchcoats and all black, she just came off like she was too cool for school. If you saw a picture of us when we first met, it was so terrifying. Picture frat boy meets hippie sorority girl meets art student.

 

WLUW: Are there any trends in music that are either annoying to you or that you wish people would do more of?

 

Harrison: Maximalist pop music is really getting on my nerves right now

Nat: Also when rock artists collab with EDM artists.

 

WLUW: Some of your songs are more vulnerable than others, is it difficult performing those for large audiences or do you find it comforting that people can relate? 

Sabrina: I do definitely agree that there is a different vibe playing to a smaller room versus a bigger room. You can be playing to a really big crowd that is super quiet and low energy. But other times you could be playing to 10 or 15 people that really want to be there.

 

WLUW: Is it different too, because you're headlining as well, that you get more control over your set list and other details? 

Nat: Oh for sure, we get to play a lot longer which changes things. 

 

-- 

 

The bubbly personalities that I met over the phone transferred into No Vacation’s final show of their summer 2019 US tour. The band interacted with their fans as they danced along to new and old songs alike. Keep an eye out for the band’s upcoming EP, Phasing, out later this summer!

 

 

Photo Courtesy of Topshelf Records

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Julien Baker at House of Vans

Julien Baker Sets the Tone For a Rainy Night in Chicago

IShow Postert was a rainy night, edging on fall-weather in Chicago, perfect for staying indoors and surrounding yourself with close friends and listening to one of the biggest names in indie music. This past Thursday, the sensational Julien Baker headlined a House of Vans “Summer House Party” at their skate space in the West Loop. In their summer concert series, the House of Vans essentially renovates their ramp-filled warehouse into an art installation; and it is all open to the public!

For her curated set, Julien chose Macseal and Wye Oak to warm up the dampened and cold crowd. The fresh-faced frontmen of pop-punk band Macseal certainly differed from the upcoming artists. Nonetheless, they simulated the audience into a matured Warped Tour atmosphere. The group’s blazing bass riffs, emo lyrics, and the fast-tempo drums delivered on their promise to liven up the room.Macseal
Next up was the charming indie rock Baltimore duo Wye Oak. Singer/guitarist Jess Wasner and drummer/guitarist Andy Stack brought a whole new layer to the night. Long-time fans danced and sang along with Jess while newbies were introduced to their experimental sounds. The majority of their set consisted of tracks from Wye Oak’s electric and sonic 2018 album The Louder I Call, The Faster it Runs.

By the end of the night, the audience had doubled in size and they were all eager for Julien grace the stage. Julien’s name is prominent in the indie songwriter community. Not only for her participation in the critically-acclaimed group boygenius later last year, but for her chilling and introspective solo work. Both of her LPs, Sprained Ankle (2015) and Turn Out the Lights (2017), are love letters to herself and to the people who have entered and exited her life. Her songwriting additionally addresses addiction, depression, grief, and self-acceptance.

Baker started out her set with “Appointments,” a popular track from Turn Out the Lights. The Wye OakHouse of Vans stood still when she belted out the tear-ridden words: “You don’t have to remind me so much / How I disappoint you.” Outside the venue, the rain came down harder, almost acting as another instrument alongside Baker’s voice and guitar. It was equally impressive how Baker managed the number of bass pedals and sheer amount of work involved onstage alone.

The setlist continued a couple songs further into her 2015 album with the self-titled track “Sprained Ankle.” Her voice and lyricism are like a stained glass window. Each note reveals a different memory and facet, Julien Bakerand when the light shines through, the room just bursts with color and vibrancy. For those 13 songs, Baker’s lived experiences resounded with many of the audiences’ struggles, and it was simply beautiful. Although she did not select either of the songs from her two-track Record Store Day release, the rest of the evening unfolded into more deep cuts and poetic telltales. At times, she was joined by a violinist, which evoked a fragile quality that adhered to the sounds around it. In the last two songs, the room was drawn into the heaviness and intimacy of the performance. Baker finished off the night with a true Memphis heartbreak ballad, “Something,” which is ultimately about the violence of feeling alone.

Once the lights went up and the beer stopped flowing, the crowd slowly filed out of the eclectic venue. The rain felt comforting somehow, and Baker’s voice played back in my head like a lullaby for the long and inspiring night.

- Allison Lapinski

Julien Baker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos by Paul Quinn

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A Mirror and a Bathroom - That's All: Charly Bliss Play The Lincoln Hall

One of the more energetic bands I've seen play in a little while is Charly Bliss. They presented a set of heavy swirling pop emenating with the exuberance of lead singer and guitarist Eva Hendricks, a level of grittiness from Spencer Fox's guitar playing, and an effectively fuzzed and propelling rhythm section of Dan Shure on bass and Sam Henfricks on drums, this past Saturday, the 15th, at Chicago's Lincoln Hall. The New York band is touring in support of their latest record, Young Enough (Barsuck Records). Striking me most about the show, observed this time from above within the Lincoln Hall's balcony, was not just the playful ease yet serious competence with which Charly Bliss play their songs, but also the reception from those in the audience - bright multi-colored hair styles and grown men jumping and singing with glee like only the best pop music elicits. I was able to have an incredibly pleasant conversation with the band to talk about this pop sound, Young Enough, and mirrors. Take a look:


WLUW: So let's start out bytalking about the new album "Young Enough." I'd love to hear a little bit about like what it was like to record it; where you guys recorded it, stuff like that.

Eva: Absolutely. It was really wonderful recording this album. I feel like the biggest difference for us on this album was that even the tougher parts felt really rewarding in the end. We recorded it in LA with Joe Chicarelli and we specifically wanted to record it in LA because we kind of have this theory that it's best to be recording when we all feel most like a unit and if we were recording in New York, there's just too many things going on at home that would make us want to hang out with our friends or see our significant others or leave early or get there late. I felt like it was kind of nice being in LA all together. And we would walk to the studio together everyday, we would go to bed at the same time every night, sort of regimented.

WLUW: I was curious actually is as to how you guys hooked up with Joe Chicarelli. He's kind of a well known name, a lot of good names in his roster. 

Sam: We had a list of producers that we were really interested in and he was obviously on the list and we tried to set up a meeting and he immediately said, "yes, let's do it." And we're like, "oh, awesome, cool". And we met with him and we just immediately clicked, and we asked him like, "how do you know about us?" He had just produced the new Broken Social Scene record and they're on a ton of year end lists, we were either like one spot behind or ahead of them and he was just like, who the hell is this Charly Bliss that I've got to check out? And so he did. And then, you know, I guess he liked what he heard. So, I feel like after we met we were like, "yeah. He's our guy."

WLUW: What goes into making a list like that of producers you'd like to work with? What do you do, do you listen to what they've done before?

Eva: A lot of it is listening to what they've done before but the foundation of everything was just, we knew on this record that we really wanted to push ourselves and we were really, really wanted to be growing beyond what we had already accomplished on Guppy (the band's first album) and kind of taking our skillset and expand that a little bit. So we were looking to work with people who had worked in the pop world with experiences in all different genres of music. And something that was really perfect about Joe was that he wasn't just a pure pop person. He's, you know, exactly as Sam just said, he did the Broken Social Scene record, but he's also done Jason Mraz. So he's done a little bit of everything andwas able to be, I felt like the perfect balance of pushing us but also extremely respectful.

Sam: It felt like something we were concerned about just going into it, we knew we wanted to work with someo that we'd be really excited to work but a little bit out of our reach. And the danger that comes with doing something like that is just that you know, you're the small fish in the big pond. So if someone suggests something and you're thinking like, "oh, I'll try it, but I really don't like that idea," and you continue to not like that idea. You know, something we are worried about is if we were working with some studio giant that they would be pissed off if we were like, "that's what we like and kind of want to keep it this way." Never ever felt that way.

Eva: He was so wonderful to work with and I feel like he pushed us when we needed to be pushed but I feel like nine times out of 10 we went with what great idea he had. So he really is a genius and is really just magnificent at what he does. So when we were setting out that was that was the number one thing, was someone who was a little bit outside of our realm, but also someone who we could really take on as like a fifth member of the band for this recording process.

WLUW:You expressed a sound that's not really a pure pop sound, and I read a quote that you guys sort of formulated your sound based off of a mutual appreciation for a more pop sound. The record, in my in my ears, has that pop aesthetic, but is not total "pop." Is that a conscious choice then? How did that sound evolve with the new album?

Eva: You know, I think part of it was we are huge pop music fans and it's what we listen to, and tonight before the show, you'll hear our pre-show playlist is all pop music and it's, the music is most exciting to us right now. We were really inspired by albums like Lorde's "Melodrama" and by Carly Rae Jepsen and I think just naturally it felt like that was where we wanted to be heading, more and more in that direction. "Guppy," we feel, is a pop album, just a pop album kind of told through really loud guitars and more in the vein of like a Weezer album, which is also a pop album. It would be kind of a shock to go from that album to then going to an Ariana Grande song. We didn't want to go so far that it would feel like not us. And also we had to honor the songs that we had written, which were, you know, somewhere in between something that didn't fall directly in either category and I don't think we definitely wanted to push it more in one direction. I feel really proud. I think we all feel really, really proud and feel like our record kind of straddled that line really, really perfectly. It's a major growth album.

WLUW: On that note. You should feel very proud because Stereogum put you guys at number three for the year so far.

Eva: Oh yeah! The list thing, it's crazy. It's awesome. And we feel so grateful for that.

WLUW: How's the tour been? 

Eva: Amazing. It's been really, really fun. Yeah. This is our first tour where we have, like, a crew with us. It's a very small crew but we have a person doing our sound every night and we have someone doing merch with us, so it's just really kind of nice to have some extra support.

Sam: Also I feel like when we toured right after "Guppy", we literally left right after the album came out and so I feel like, in a way, people didn't have as much time to kind of sit with the new songs and really absorb them and it was still a great tour but then we kind of toured again months later and that would feel like, "oh this is really like the album tour, but for this one we kind of gave it a little bit of time and it's just really awesome to see people in the audience knowing the songs and it's really exciting. 

WLUW: You have dates planned pretty much the whole year and you're touring with Pup to later in the fall, right? We talked to them a couple of weeks ago and they spoke really, really highly of you guys and the new album specifically and I was curious about your thoughts on their new album. 

All Together: So good! It's just so good!

Eva: It's so good. We toured with them for the first time so early on in our career as a band and I don't think we had any idea when we agreed to do that tour that we were meeting people who would be our lifelong friends. We feel so grateful that there's just so much mutual respect between our two bands and we're so inspired by them. I mean it's such a great album and we were just at the Brooklyn Steel show that they played in New York a couple of weeks ago and I was scream dancing and crying the whole time, which is exactly how I like to feel.

WLUW: What's the last thing you listened to?

Eva & Dan: Kim Petras.

Eva: Yeah. Kim Petrus, the new Lizzo record we really love...I'm trying to think. As soon as someone asks that I'm like, "have they ever heard music?" Yeah. I'm so excited that Charli XCX has a new record coming out. Those are the staples right now.

Dan: Dua Lipa. We love Dua Lipa. 

WLUW: You said that Lincoln Hall is your favorite venue on Twitter, I was just curious as to why? 

Spencer: Oh my God. I mean the staff here is just like second to none. We got to the venue and the four of us just dropped our bags off in the green room and within five minutes we walked back down and all of our stuff was unloaded and everybody was just ready to go and sound check was a breeze. Everybody's just so nice.

Dan: They fixed your pedal. 

Spencer: They fixed my pedal in like five minutes! I know it would have cost me like $60. Wow.

Eva: Actually there's a small number of things that venues should get right in order to be like very, very awesome. But it's strangely rare to find venues that like get all five things right. Meaning like a good green room with a bathroom, the staff is really kind and respectful and great. 

Spencer: I will say, added to that, a green room with mirror. 

Eva: So many green rooms don't have mirrors, and I love to wear crazy outfits, but I can't figure out what the fuck I'm wearing!"

Sam: Mirror and a bathroom that's all. 

 

  <---------- Young Enough is out now on Barsuck Records

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