Quirky and skillful sextet the Curls may only be a few years old, but they’re quickly illustrating why Chicago is a major breeding ground for creative, idiosyncratic, and fearless music. Originally conceived as a “minimalist psych/folk project for singer/songwriter Mick [last name unknown]”, the band now sees itself as a “constantly evolving art rock entertainment content conglomerate” that endearingly blends bits of jazz, “new wave, psych, pop and prog rock” into refreshingly peculiar and sophisticated gems. Their latest track, “Prickly Feelings” (from upcoming LP SUPER UNIT), does an excellent job of showcasing their playful aesthetic.
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Legendary synthpop duo Erasure returned with their 17th studio album this year and are showing no signs of slowing down as they continue to release compelling music year after year. Really anything synthpop god Vince Clarke does is worthy of notice and Andy Bell’s voice is as gorgeous and emotive as always.
Jeff Beck once said of the Legendary Shack Shakers that they were “a cross between the Yard Birds and the Sex Pistols”, which sounds just about right. Legendary Shack Shakers have always channeled the energy and rawness of punk into their rockabilly and psychobilly drenched music. It’s an irresistible mixture. On their latest album, After You’ve Gone releasing August 25th via Last Chance Records, the band ratchets up the lo-fi elements while exploring the aftermath and pain of marital breakdown and divorce.
Concept albums are old news, concept identities are where it’s at. Louise Chicoine is the agile voice behind the ‘fictional diva’ Banny Grove, an alter-ego constructed with guitarist/keyboardist Peter Nichols. The LA-based duo originally hail from Vermont, and while those roots make it tempting to look for any traces of a Phish-y sense of humor, their new Cars in Control EP is much more a product of, and response to, Southern California’s bright sprawling artifice.
Banny Grove debuted last year with an album that asked Who Is She?, but Cars in Control is more inclined to keep offering curious clues than answer such questions. The title track goes after “the oil man” with spare synthpop abstraction. “Baby” rides an unblinking combination of plucked harp and post-ironic autotune. “Trash Truck”, which is “sung from the optimistic perspective of a child living underground when the surface world is an unseen desert of garbage”, winds strands of Christmas lights around the Cure’s “Kyoto Song”. The EP is out August 8th via Nicey Music.
Nashville’s Jillette Johnson possesses a deft songwriting touch that lends her music a deep sophistication. Her songs are confident enough to allow room for the aural equivalent of white space, which permits her music to breathe and build in intensity. Meanwhile, Johnson’s voice is a sheer honey-toned delight with gorgeous phrasing and attention to detail. Americana super-producer Dave Cobb sure liked what he heard as he has produced her sophomore album, All I Ever See in You Is Me, releasing July 28th via Rounder Records.
Johnson started playing piano at age five, was composing her first songs at eight, and began playing the East Village’s famed SideWalk Cafe at 12, so you know she’s a bonafide prodigy. Her latest song “Flip a Coin” highlights all of her musical gifts as it’s brilliantly written tune about fear. At only 27 years old, we are looking forward to many greats years of music from this talent.