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by Sarah Zupko

21 Apr 2016


The Reverend Shawn Amos is on a mission to bring blues to wider attention within pop culture spaces. After all, it’s a living, breathing, vibrant genre that continues to grow, not some old retro form of music. Just look at the careers of Gark Clark Jr., Robert Randolph and Keb’ Mo’ for the most recent examples. Amos comes at the blues from a lifetime of appreciation as he formerly worked as a music industry executive where he recorded and produced a number of Grammy-nominated albums. Now, he’s stepping out with the microphone as a blues preacher and the result is fabulous, as his singing seduces the blues-starved masses and his harmonica playing makes them believers.

by PopMatters Staff

21 Apr 2016


Photo: Richard Peterson

Morgan Y. Evans: Neil Hagerty is one of the original ‘90s vibe deconstructionists, a master guitarist who is way underrated by the mainstream. Royal Trux are one of the most important bands ever, but some people will always have to have their hand held in a conversation about the ripples the band started by throwing their weird hybrid of noise collage, ‘70s rock influences and gutter glam in the alt rock pond. Neil preceded the likewise talented Kurt Viles and Kevin Devines by a long shot. This new Howling Hex song (they’ve got a lot of records now) is pretty darn linear, with a video that could be a stoner version of HBO’s cancelled show The Newsroom and an arrangement that is practically power pop with the sneared kind of thin and weasely sounding vocals fans love. A far cry from Pussy Galore’s chaos but certainly worth some spins. If the absence of Hagerty’s at times epic and juicy solos bugs you can always revisit “Shadow of the Wasp” on your own time. [6/10]

by PopMatters Staff

19 Apr 2016


Pryor Stroud: Tim Hecker’s dark-electro “Black Phase” purports to be part of a sequence, but it refuses to reveal what the rest of this sequence consists of: what is the phase that follows this “black phase”? Was there a preceding white phase that, due to some transformative event, darkened to its current color? The track doesn’t provide any answers, but through snatches of feedback and ethereal choral chants, it suggests a reality that teases transience—this will be over soon, don’t worry—while remaining stubbornly and ominously constant. [8/10]

by PopMatters Staff

19 Apr 2016


John Tryneski: As a born southsider and early Kanye lover it’s hard to stay objective when responding to Chance the Rapper’s particular style of technicolor, soul-sampling, White Sox-bumping street pop. After Chance premiered “Angels” on Colbert in a Power 92 t-shirt (with Saba repping WGCI, naturally) it’s hard to imagine a more Chicago-centric rendition and yet this video takes its Chicagoness to the next level. I can see how some might grow weary of the Chance’s children’s cartoon video style and ultra-upbeat production, but every element feels in perfect harmony to me. Especially coming as the southside struggles with a second straight year of rising gun violence, “Angels” needn’t apologize for its earnest attempts to console and uplift and shines all the brighter for them. And hey, Chance has also somehow managed to piss off a New York Post columnist, which is always considered a win in Chicago. [9/10]

by PopMatters Staff

18 Apr 2016


Pryor Stroud: Writing and performing under the moniker Car Seat Headrest, Will Toledo crafts DIY, indie-punk sketches that sound like alchemical mixtures of the lo-fi noise rock of Cloud Nothings and the guitar-centric alt-pop of Pavement. In “Fill in the Blank”, he wields an indomitably bright and propulsive melody to vent about his existential anxieties, and when he attacks certain notes, yelping them out toward the rafters of the production, you can almost believe that the track has help him reach some sort of catharsis. But the final chorus reveals this belief to be an unequivocal falsehood: “I’ve got a right to be depressed / I’ve given every inch I had to fight it,” Toledo sings, and while he may be resigned to the fact of his depression, it’s difficult not to imagine “Fill in the Blank” as a bit of this fight still left in him. [9/10]

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