Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Releases Of 2013

Time again for a list of the releases I liked best throughout the year. Putting them in numerical order is always a difficult and occasionally arbitrary process, but I’ve come up with a Top 25 List, along with some very worthy honorable mentions. With a few noted exceptions, all of these recordings were reviewed on Broken Hearted Toy at some point in 2013.

I’d like to extend my gratitude to all the artists, press agents, and labels that contacted me in regard to reviewing music, and I apologize that due to time constraints, I’m wasnt always able to respond to every message. Your interest and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

To make things easier, I once again separated the Greatest Hits and Various Artists (with a few exceptions that made the Top 25 List) compilations. Here are some noteworthy examples in those categories:

Big Star - Nothing Can Hurt Me Soundtrack

The Hollies - Live Hits

The Three O’Clock - The Hidden World Revealed

Epicycle - You’re Not Gonna Get It

Various Artists - ONXRT Live Vol. 15

The Chills - Somewhere Beautiful

Big Star - Playlist: The Very Best Of Big Star (Review yet to come.)

The Beatles - On Air: Live At The BBC Vol. 2 (Review yet to come.)

Various Artists - Capitalised: Tall Tales And Low Lives Of Edinburgh

Soft Hearted Scientists - Whatever Happened To The Soft Hearted Scientists

And now, on to my Top 25 Favorite Releases Of 2013:

1. Johnny Marr - The Messenger Amazingly, this was the first solo effort from the former Smiths guitarist. Marr taps into his 1980s roots with a flawless collection of energetic songs fueled by his signature guitar playing.

2. Various Artists - Re-Evolution: FDM Sings The Hollies The UK vinyl-only indie label Fruits De Mer brings together 16 current psychedelic and prog rock artists to interpret songs from Manchester’s Finest, mostly from the For Certain Because through Butterfly era.

3. Palmyra Delran - You Are What You Absorb The former member of The Friggs channeled garage rock and the 1960s girl group sound on this energetic and melodic solo effort. 

4. Amy Gore And Her Valentines - In Love Like Palmyra Delran, Gore is a Little Steven Van Zandt-approved garage rock veteran who combines great tunes with a dose of fun. (I’ll post a full review of this soon.)

5. Dot Dash - Half-Remembered Dream The Washington, D.C. band continued to evoke the best of vintage punk and new wave music on its latest release.

6. Phil Angotti - Life And Rhymes At times another introspective work in the vein of his 2011 CD, People And Places, but Angotti also cuts loose with the bluegrass flavored “Daddy’s Country Records” and the sci-fi rock of “I See Spaceships.”
7. Ellis Clark - LP Number 1 An adventurous solo effort from the Chicago singer-guitarist-keyboards player known for his work with The Handcuffs, Epicycle, and Social Act.

8. Dolly Varden - For A While This welcome return from the critically acclaimed alt rock/Country and Western band found vocalist-guitarist-songwriter Stave Dawson mixing wistful autobiographical tales with harder-edged material like “Temperamental Complement.”

9. Agony Aunts - Big Cinnamon A psychedelic side project from the California-indie band The Corner Laughers turns out to be imaginative and silly, with great harmonies.

10. Matthew Sweet And Susanna Hoffs - Under The Covers Vol. 3 This time out, Sweet and Hoffs deftly perform a number of gems from the 1980s, including ones by R.E.M. and The Smiths.

11. Pezband - Dangerous People - Founding member lead vocalist-guitarist Mimi Betinis joins with engineer John Pavletic to spruce up some recently discovered, previously unreleased material from the influential power pop band’s 1970s days. (I’ll post a full review of this soon.)

12. Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra - For The Baby Doll The multi-faceted Tremulis utilizes rock, blues, and soul as he takes a look back at the early days of his career with this CD/36-page book combo.

13. Las Kellies - Total Exposure The three-woman Argentine band has a blast mixing reggae, hip-hop and garage rock on its latest devil-may-care effort.

14. Little Green Cars - Absolute Zero The young coed band from Dublin, Ireland applies great harmony vocals to imaginative songs about ghosts, relationships and John Wayne.

15. Crystal Jacqueline - “A Fairy Tale,” Jack Ellister - “Dawn Dream Club”, and Stay - “Mersey Dream” Although each of these is a vinyl 45, the Fruits De Mer label issued them simultaneously (along with a few other 45s). Most of the tracks are covers of music from the original psychedelic era.

16. The Melismatics - Rising Tide The Minneapolis quintet successfully expands beyond its obsession with 1980s techno pop while keeping the pulsating beats and irresistible melodies flowing.

17. The Abbeys - Please File Under: Twang International Pop Overthrow - Chicago veterans Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis have become masters of harmony vocals, and augment their power pop with hints of Country and Western and satiric humor on this six-song EP.

18. Norwood Park All-Stars - Northwest Highway Former members of Chicago’s 1980s Norcore punk scene Dave Bergeron and Pete Hlavach rekindle the movement’s rebellious spirit with some powerful, newly recorded songs. 

19. Go Time! - Tight Like Wood Lead vocalist-guitarist and songwriter Scott Niekelski keeps the Chicago band squarely between power pop and hard rock, and adds a few new tricks to his repertoire.

20. Kevin Lee And The Kings - Breakout Singer-guitarist Lee always travels along the harder edges of power pop, and along with his band The Kings, provides an energetic setting for melodic songs about broken relationships. 

21. Beki Hemingway - I Have Big Plans For The World Singer-songwriter Hemingway and her husband, guitarist-producer Randy Kerkman, play catchy power pop with elements of Sheryl Crow and The Continental Drifters on this six-song EP.

22.  Jupiter In Velvet - Shut Off Your Mind - This brash singer-songwriter from the UK trips back to the flamboyant glam rock era and tosses in an authentic cover of David Bowie’s “Starman.”

 23. Ryan Powers And The Secret Weapons - The Goodnight Goodbye Hour Three of The Secret Weapons join singer-guitarist Powers on harmony vocals to help create catchy power pop songs like “Be My Baby” that evoke The Hollies.

24. Laura Biagini - Sanctuary Of Sound The singer-songwriter conjures images of warm weather fun while channeling The Beach Boys and the girl groups sound of the 1960s.

25. Lisa Mychols - Above, Beyond And In Between Like Biagini, Mychols excels at tapping into the dreamy pop of Leslie Gore and The Shangri-Las, but she also takes a more modern approach on songs like “She Lied” and “Another Side Of Time.”

Honorable Mentions: Other 2013 Releases That Put A Smile On My Ears
(In No Particular Order):

The Green Question Mark - Pegasus EP
Susanna Hoffs - From Me To You Digital EP
Static In Verona - Some Things You Knew
Richard Heyman - X 
The Rebel Set - How To Make A Monster
The Paper Kites - States
Jack Scratch - 2012
The Twigs - Jump Right In 
Andy Stone - The Giant Awoke
The Honey Pot - To The Edge Of The World
The Pralines - Beautiful View
The Electric Stars - Sonic Candy Soul
Mooner - Unpronounceable Name
Stephen Lawrenson - OBSCURiOSiTY
Red Clover Ghost - Self Titled
Frosting - Frosting II
Mordecai Smyth - Dial M For Mordecai
Gerry O’Keefe - Whatever Suits You
Jet W. Lee - Western Nightmare
The Unswept - Surf Song EP
Fort Frances - Harbour
Soft Hearted Scientists - False Lights 
Jasko - Thirty Forty
Gary Ritchie - Drake Near The Alley
The So So Glos - Blowout
Crystal Jacqueline - Sun Arise
The Perms - The Aberdeen EP
The Safes - Thanks To You 
Warm Soda - Someone For You
Jack Mack And The Last Stand - The Heavy Chevy EP

Monday, December 30, 2013

CD Review: Roxy Swain - Restless Hearts

Restless Hearts, which will be available on digital and orange vinyl versions in early February, finds Roxy Swain taking a less rock-oriented approach than it did on The Spell Of Youth. It’s a risky move, considering how well the Chicago-based quartet did on that 2010 full-length debut. Fortunately, lead vocalist-rhythm guitarist Roxy Swain’s full-bodied singing, along with the band’s knack for strong melodies and well-crafted lyrics, makes the new material successful. 

“Constellations Fell” and “Lexington East” are slower songs set to arrangements that border on sounding over-orchestrated, but the engaging “Impossible Wait” is augmented by Matt Walters’ twangy guitar playing. Elsewhere, Swain’s sensual approach suits the slinky blues and nocturnal hijinx of “Salt And Smoke,” and she employs a lighter singing style for the guitar-driven pop song “Sad.” “Tonight” is an immediate grabber, with Swain belting out her vocals over toe-tapping rock and roll with a touch of Country And Western. It serves as a reminder that Roxy Swain’s bread and butter might still be the energetic songs.

Roxy Swain has an in-store appearance at Val’s Halla Records in Oak Park on Saturday, February 1, and a release show at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on Friday, February 7th.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Anyone lucky enough to see the Cheap Trick concert tonight at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana is bound to walk away with an deep appreciation of Rick Nielsen’s guitar playing. Now fans can check out his massive collection in Tom Beaujour’s new book, Guitar Aficionado: The Collections: The Most Famous, Rare, and Valuable Guitars in the World. The guitars of Joe Perry, Jimmie Vaughn, and Elliott Easton are also featured in in the book, which comes from Guitar Aficionado magazine.

I’m planning to post a review of In Love, the new Amy Gore And Her Valentines CD here soon, and I reckon it will place high on my favorite releases of 2013 List. Gore was a member of garage rockers The Gore Gore Girls, and she’s joined in this new band by bassist Leann Banks from The Von Bondies, drummer Joe Leone from Grayling, and Pete Ballard from Deadstring Brothers. “Send Me A Postcard” got a nod of approval from Little Steven Van Zandt on his Underground Garage radio show. Amy Gore And Her Valentines will be opening for long-time Chicago favorites The Waco Brothers tomorrow night at Schubas on Chicago’s northside. Showtime is 8:00PM

Congratulations to vocalist-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell of The Handcuffs on being the Featured Guitarist on the Gretsch Guitars website.

Having just finished my review of the new Playlist: The Very Best Of Big Star compilation for the Illinois Entertainer, the extraordinary talents of the late Alex Chilton are fresh in my mind. A number of Chicago area musicians have never forgotten him, which is why the 9th Annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash is being held at The Empty Bottle tomorrow night. The acts involved are Certain Stars; Christopher Joseph Elam; Kathy Greenholdt and Chris Corsale; The Injured Parties; The Intimate Machines; The J and P’s; Letterbomb; Lutz; Scott Niekelski from Go Time!; and Puritan Pine. The tribute starts at 8:00 PM, admission is $9.00.

As noted by Mary Houlihan in today’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times, the suburb of Evanston has brought back its localized New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night. Country& Western/alt rock band Dolly Varden and blues harmonica player Corky Siegel are among the acts performing at this family-friendly event,

Meanwhile, in Palatine: Jim Schwall, Siegel’s partner in The Siegel-Schwall Band, will be a special guest when The Chris Aaron Band celebrates New Year’s Eve at Mac’s On Slade. The Blue Dadeez are also on the bill.

Just a few blocks away in Palatine, Durty Nellie’s will have the Talking Heads tribute act This Must Be The Band ringing in 2014.

David Bowie fans can have a double dose of tribute fun on the north side of Chicago when Sons Of The Silent Age play at Mayne Stage on New Years Eve, and the Berlin nightclub presents its BowieBall on January 2nd. Chris Connelly of Ministry and Revolting Cocks fame, will be channeling the Thin White Duke as lead vocalist for Sons at Mayne Stage, and he’ll be joined by Robert Byyne at Berlin two days later. BowieBall will also have DJ Heaven Malone spinning tunes, and there will androgynous and glam fashion and makeup in the mix.

The Cheetles, a Beatles cover band comprised of veteran musicians Larry Beers, Donnie Briggs, James Coffey, Skid Marks, Mike Medina, Dann Morr, and Tom Slater, will be performing at Martyrs’ on Monday, January 6th. The cover charge is $10.

Heavy Manners, the politically charged ska band that once ruled Chicago’s club scene, hits The Metro on January 3rd as part of its American Ska-Thic 20 Year Reunion Tour. See the band’s Facebook page for further details.

If you saw the Mary Wilson and The Four Tops Holiday Spectacular at the Harris Theater and you’re looking forward to when Motown The Musical opens in Chicago next April, you might also be interested in The Motown 7s Box: Rare And Unreleased Vinyl set. Writer Mike Duquette recently did a post on this collection from England for The Second Disc, a  knowledgeable website about all things related to rare and re-released music.

And finally, a tip of the fez to Matt Smith, who recently wrapped up his tenure as The Doctor on Doctor Who. I’ve haven’t seen the episode yet since I don’t have cable, but I read Kyle Anderson’s review (with spoiler alerts) on The Nerdist website. Sounds like Smith bowed out with his typical class and humor. The best of luck to him in his acting career. Hopefully, he’ll be as busy as his Doctor Who predecessor David Tennant has been since leaving the show.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

On Our Way

My writers group had numerous things to celebrate at our annual holiday party in addition to the season. Not only did we survive another challenging year of critiquing each other’s work, but several members had, or soon will have their books published. The subject matter includes children’s stories, historical fiction, and a graphic novel based on a cult TV show, along with paranormal and sci-fi Young Adult novels.

Kym Brunner, who has two YA novels coming out in 2014, came up with a literary trivia game for our party. It involved trying to guess the title and author of a book, based on a puzzle piece from its front cover. Along with famous authors like Mario Puzo, Joseph Heller, and Dr. Seuss, Brunner used works by our group members, like Cherie Colyer’s Hold Tight; Marian Manseau Cheatham’s Merely Dee;  Susan Kaye Quinn’s Open Minds, Terri Murphy’s One Day I Went Rambling; and her own Wanted: Dead Or In Love. I’m hoping that’s a good omen.

I suspect more of our members, particularly Veronica Rundell and Katie Sparks, will be joining the ranks of published authors soon. Mike Kelly, who wrote the copy for the graphic novel KOLCHAK: The Night Stalker and Dr. Moreau, and has self-published two graphic novels based on his Barker The Beagleman super sleuth, is now working on a full-length sci-fi novel. I should be ready to shop my rock and roll novel to literary agents and publishers soon, and I have two Middle Grade fantasy novels to hawk as well.

I have benefited quite a bit from being in this group, and feel I’ve given my share of helpful tips. It’s a group where people won’t hesitate to say an entire chapter needs to be cut, or that your big finale was a disappointment. That can be hard to take, but these guys are just as likely to suggest an option that becomes an essential chunk of your narrative. And members have to feel comfortable in the realm of fairies, witches, old-time gangsters, love-struck teenagers, and in the case of Merely Dee, heartbreaking tragedy. The Night Stalker and Dr. Moreau was a blast to critique. 

We’ve already held one Stand-up Literary Event, and organizers Brunner, Colyer, and Sparks are considering more. I’ll be sure to post here when the next event comes along. Or when another member of our group gets a book published.

Friday, December 20, 2013


The Paul Collins Beat, an influential power pop band that got its start in the 1980s, continues to stay active all across the USA. The current lineup, led by Mr. Collins, is teaming up with the Nashville-based punk band Parasite Diet for gigs in Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia, and Louisiana throughout January.

I was hoping The Zombies would be among the 2014 Inductees to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame,  but they didn’t make the cut. Maybe next year. In the meantime, congratulations the artists who were chosen: Peter Gabriel, Nirvana, Cat Stevens, Kiss, Daryl Hall And John Oates, and Linda Ronstadt. The E Street Band; Rolling Stones producer/mentor Andrew Loog Oldham; and Brian Epstein, the man who translated the genius of The Beatles to the rest of the globe, will also be honored.

The sharp-tongued and critically acclaimed power pop band Archie Powell And The Exports  plan to release their third CD next year, and they’ll be ending 2013 in style with a New Year’s Eve gig at the Emporium Arcade Bar on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago. The Noise FM and Hemmingbirds are also on the bill. 

Chicago’s top boss, Mayor Rahm Emanuel crept into the WXRT studio this past Wednesday, but not to steal their presents or the roast beast. He was there to surprise radio personality Terri Hemmert with an official proclamation that December 18th was Terri Hemmert Day throughout the city. Loyal XRT listeners would agree it’s a well-deserved honor, considering Hemmert has been entertaining and enlightening listeners for 40 years. Congratulations, Terri. 

Blondie has a new single called “Sugar On The Side” available on on iTunes. The slow and sensuous tune moves to a ska rhythm and features some guys singing in Spanish, in addition to Deborah Harry’s lead vocals.

Congratulations to Dan Pavelich and the various artists associated with the Christmas Without Cancer CD on reaching their goal of raising $1,000 for The American Cancer Society. Pavelich noted on Facebook that Christmas Without Cancer has sold out on CD Baby, but he’s sent them more copies. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Post From Christmas Past: Christmas With The Smithereens

Here’s another holiday rerun from the Broken Hearted Toy vault.

The Smithereens first dabbled in Christmas music back in 1992 by recording a silly and energetic take on “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” for the Rockin’ Christmas compilation. The song later appeared on the 1995 Attack Of The Smithereens rarities collection, as well as on the Songs Of The Season compilation sponsored by Borders Books and WXRT in 2000. 

In 2007, the band, which by then featured new bassist Severo Jornacion, really showed its holiday spirit by releasing the full-length Christmas With The Smithereens. It’s a fun party from start to finish, as The Smithereens bring their engaging power pop approach to a mix of originals and cover versions. “Waking Up On Christmas Morning,” which can also be found on the Hi-Fi Christmas Party and Ho Ho Spice collections, is a catchy tune penned by guitarist Jim Babjak. The  fast-paced “Christmas Time All Over The World,” written by Babjak, singer Pat DiNizio, drummer Dennis Diken, and original bassist Mike Mesaros, celebrates hugging and kissing under the mistletoe, and compares the holiday to a big rock show. The other Smithereens original, “Christmas (I Remember)” takes a melodic look back and notes, “The kid inside my heart won’t die.”

There are also guitar-driven interpretations of Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” and The Beach Boys’ “Merry Christmas, Baby.” “Christmas,” taken from The Who’s Tommy isn’t traditional holiday fare, but the authentic arrangement here gives a preview of band’s later decision to record their own version of the entire rock opera. “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight)” doesn’t have as much edge as the version by The Ramones, but it’s still a solid effort, and The Smithereens also do well with “Christmas Time Is Here Again,” one of the rare songs The Beatles recorded for their fan club members.

The Smithereens set Clement Clark Moore’s classic poem, ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas to a jazzy percussion-led arrangement, and open “Auld Lang Syne” with acappella vocals before launching into a rollicking instrumental jam session. All in all, Christmas With The Smithereens is a date worth keeping. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Post Of Christmas Past: Various Artists - Yuletunes

This review has appeared on Broken Hearted Toy in the past, but I was just listening to the Yuletunes CD while trying to catch on my holiday to-do list, and thought it was worthy of another turn in spotlight. Yuletunes ranks as on of the best rock Christmas compilations, and is available from the Shoes website

Released in 1991 on Shoes’ Black Vinyl label, Yuletunes was an ambitious collection of original Christmas songs created by various power pop artists, mostly from the Midwest. Matthew Sweet, who contributed the reverent “Baby Jesus,” and Marti Jones and Don Dixon, who created a joyous duet on “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday,” were the biggest names involved.

“This Christmas” by Shoes is a catchy rock song with a monster drum beat and chiming guitars, as the band’s lush harmony vocals deliver the optimistic advice, “Things will get better/Doesn’t seem like it now, but they always do.” Material Issue’s “Merry Christmas Will Do” features Jim Ellison’s rugged guitar playing, and as a vocalist, he’s a master at selling the pain of unrequited love. “You don’t have to say you love me, I know that that’s not true,” Ellison concedes. “But Merry Christmas will do.” The Idea, fronted by vocalist-guitarist Phil Angotti, contribute the fetching “It’s About That Time,” which describes winter scenes, church bell, carols, and watching It’s A Wonderful Life. It goes on to note that the holiday season seems like the only time of the year when “we all have a lot of love to share.”

The single-named Leroy checks in with “Santa Stole My Baby,” a mid-tempo song that sets up a crime scene with clever clues like, “footsteps on the rooftop.” The slinky guitar playing underscores the sexy fun of lyrics like, “She makes him cookies./She calls him Chris/Gets everything double on her Christmas list.” “The Saddest Time Of The Year” comes from Spooner, the Wisconsin-based band that included lead vocalist-guitarist Duke Erikson and drummer Butch Vig long before they formed Garbage with dynamic Scottish chanteuse, Shirley Manson. The haunting arrangement, and Erikson’s guitar playing in particular, make this reflection on disappointment and loneliness at Christmas even more touching. The Cavedogs mixed comedy with catchy pop music on “3 Wise Men And A Baby (Xmas Song),” a funny and ambitious epic that begins with a sound bite of Burl Ives’ talking snowman from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. About halfway through, the guitar-driven song abruptly shifts into a lounge act reminiscent of the bit Bill Murray used to do on Saturday Night Live.

The Spongetones describe a tranquil paradise with their acoustic-based, innocent fantasy “Christmasland,” which combines a delicate melody and intricately layered vocals. “A God Of My Own” by the 92 Degrees evokes the British Invasion while taking a complex look at religious beliefs during what is undoubtedly the most commercial time of the year. Songs don’t come much happier than Bill Lloyd’s “Underneath The Christmas Tree,” which depicts a guy and his girlfriend sharing an evening of holiday decorating. Set to a catchy arrangement, it sounds like it could have been a 1960s Top 40 hit.

Kelly Ryan is inconsolable on the ballad, “It’s Not Christmas,” as she spends the holiday alone “for the first time in years.” It’s not clear why her longtime beau is no longer there, but a reference to her looking longingly at the phone suggests there’s hope for a reconciliation. Singer-guitarist Herb Eimerman’s gorgeous ballad “You Gave Me” celebrates family traditions at Christmas, as well as the way love and values are passed on from one generation to another. The lyrics take listeners to a holiday gathering at the parents’ home where children and grandchildren bask in “the love from this fine house.” Eimerman tells his Mom and Dad, “I learned all my love from all your love you gave me.” The Critics uncork an irresistible energy on their romantic “She Feels Like Christmas Day.” It’s the one song on this memorable collection that could conceivably be played at any time of year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oh What Fun!

WXRT’s Sunday night program Local Anesthetic has long been a gateway for Chicago area musicians to get some exposure on the FM rock station. Host Richard Milne often interviews local recording artists, in addition to playing their music. Every December, Milne invites the city’s music community to take part in his Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular.

The challenge for local music acts is to create an entertaining holiday greeting that mentions themselves as well as WXRT and Local Anesthetic in less than a minute. Milne mentioned on the 22nd Annual Holiday Spectacular this past Sunday night that some entries blew through the time limit and therefore had to be edited. Local Anesthetic expands to an hour for this seasonal edition, and amazingly, the numerous promotional snippets all kind of work together as a whole.

Thanks to social networking, favorite bands seem closer to us these days, which makes their holiday greetings seem all the more personal. So listeners enjoyed cheer from Mr. Blotto, The Luck Of Eden Hall, Urban Twang (who served up Led Zeppelin and “The Little Drummer Boy” in their piece), The Red Plastic Buddha, The Webstirs, The Safes, Magatha Trysty, Corky Siegel, Ellis Clark, Static In Verona, The Del Monacos, Sgt. Popgrass, and countless others. WXRT will air The Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular again on Sunday, December 22nd.  

More Fun: The Beatle Brothers, a covers band founded by Phil Angotti and Jay Goeppner, will be performing a special Christmas show this Friday night at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Digital Single Review: The Mites - “Washaway”

The Mites add elements of shoegazing and power pop to an indie rock approach on “Washaway,” a digital single that provides an enticing preview to their upcoming album. The band’s lead vocalist Ali Korte evokes Clare Grogan of Altered Images and Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays. Guitarist/songwriter Reed DeAngelis from the speed metal band Iron Age proves he’s versatile enough to play two entirely different genres, and drummer Raul Vela IV brings expertise from his work with Gleeson and Cottonwood Stills.

“Washaway” kicks off with some energetic guitar strumming before settling into a melodic arrangement featuring Korte’s dreamily layered vocals. The poetic lyrics, with lines like, “We’ll watch the world wash away” call to mind Modern English’s 1980 hit “I Melt With You,” suggesting it’s possible to escape the world’s hassles if you find the right person. The full-length debut from The Mites drops in March, 2014. Meanwhile, “Washaway” is available for a free download on their Bandcamp page.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saturday Slumgullion

Yesterday’s Slumgullion was a bit short due an active week of freelance work, so here are some more items about upcoming events in entertainment.

The Flamin’ Groovies are often credited with being one of the pioneers of power pop, and their frontman Chris Wilson has a solo effort due out on January 14th. It’s Flamin’ Groovy! will also feature Flamin’ Groovies band members Cyril Jordan and George Alexander.

As the year winds down I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to EXPO ‘76 for their consistently clever Facebook announcements of upcoming gigs in the Chicago area. This fun and impressively eclectic covers band has a performance coming up with The Total Pro Horns next Thursday, December 19th at FitzGerald’s nightclub in Berwyn. Here’s what EXPO ‘76 posted: “We are returning to FitzGerald's Nightclub for one last fling around the dance floor with 2013, before we emotionlessly trade her in for a new fresh trophy year called 2014.” They’re pretty funny onstage, too.

The fun and consistently melodic band The Steak House Mints also have a gig coming up this Thursday. They’ll be at Martyrs’ playing selections from this year’s Love Songs For Prostitutes album. Leslie Hunt and Temple Schultz will be opening that night.

Over at Uncommon Ground’s Clark Street location on that same Thursday night, Gerry O’Keefe, Paul Coady, Scott Niekelski and Patrick Potts will take part in a Songwriters Circle.

Martin Van Ruin, a new band founded by vocalist Derek Nelson, just posted a video on YouTube of its live performance of two songs at Thalia Hall in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood while the venue was still under construction. The brief “Give Me Flowers” is stark and compelling while “Someone Tried To Warn Me” finds Martin Van Ruin trying a more energetic approach. Both songs feature well-crafted vocals from Nelson and fellow vocalist Sarah Jane Goldstein The band has a release party coming up at Lincoln Hall on December 20th for its debut, Every Man A King.

Fort Frances will be previewing some new songs when they open for The Lone Bellow at the Athenaeum Theater in Chicago on Friday, January 17th. The gig is part of the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival.

The Americana coed trio Rivals Of The Peacemaker will be part of a roots rock showcase at Martyrs’ on December 28th. The band Falldown, which includes former members of The Hue,The Redwalls and Safe Haven, and the duo Elisa Grace and Adam Levy, are also on the bill.

WXRT will finish off  2013 with its Rock ‘N Roll Ball at the International Continental Chicago O’Hare Hotel in Rosemont on New Year’s Eve. Cracker and JC Brooks And The Uptown Sound are the headliners, with Modern Day Romeos and Rod Tuffcurls And The Bench Press also on the bill.

Musician Jeff Charreaux of the band Ultraviolet Eye will be part of a rally at the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood, CA tonight to protest an effort by the city of Los Angeles to ban anyone from feeding homeless people in public places. Charreaux and others fear the ban will adversely affect the efforts of charities to bring food to those who desperately need it.

Friday, December 13, 2013


Shadows Of Knight frontman Jimy Sohns will be one of the musicians on hand for the annual Dick Biondi Toy Drive tomorrow from 10:00AM to 8:00 PM at Block Thirty Seven in downtown Chicago. Biondi, a legendary air personality in the Chicago area for decades, will be broadcasting live from the event. Guests are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy.
Over the years, I’ve come to recognize musician/journalist Dan Pavelich’s indie label Vandalay as a trusted name in Christmas rock compilations. Pavelich produced three volumes of Hi-Fi Christmas, persuading numerous power pop and indie artists to contribute original songs that celebrated the holiday. Proceeds from those CDs helped fund research to find a cure for Von Willibrand’s Disease, a rare blood disorder.

Pavelich’s most recent effort on Vandalay is Christmas Without Cancer, and it features some of the same artists that made the Hi-Fi Christmas compilations so enjoyable. The Grip Weeds, Lisa Mychols, The Goldbergs, Jeremy, The Click Beetles, and Bill Lloyd are on board, along with newcomers like Mimi Betinis from Pezband and Sgt. Popgrass, a bluegrass Beatles cover band fronted by Graham Elvis. Christmas Without Cancer is available for $12 on the Jam Records website, and 100% of the profits will go to The American Cancer Society. 

Sorry I missed this a few weeks back, but Go Time! recently celebrated its fifth anniversary of making hard-edged power pop music. Congratulations to them.

It might be a little early to think about what concerts you’ll be checking out next Spring, but Shoes have announced they’ll be doing a show at Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso Indiana on May 31st. Hopefully more shows are in the works.

Also, coming up in the new year, The Abbeys will be debuting their new lineup at Redline Tap on February 15th.

The Posies are back in the USA and will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the release of Frosting On The Beater with the band’s original lineup at Neumos in Seattle on January 10th.

Rascals fans could be singing, “It’s a Beautiful Morning!” on Christmas day if someone gives them a copy of The Rascals A Visual Biography. The 9” x 12” book was sold at the band’s performances of its Once Upon A Dream musical, and is now available on the Wicked Cool Records website. The Rascals A Visual Biography, which was written by Joe Russo with a forward by Little Steven VanZandt, has 175 pages over 400 photographs.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Songs From The Luck And The JAC

The tradition of rock bands giving us their take on this festive season lives on, as numerous artists are releasing special holiday recordings. Here are two recent examples.

Noel And Other Holiday Classics, which is currently available as a name-your-price download on The Luck Of Eden Hall’s Bandcamp page, appears to be a mix of old and new material. Their garage rock version of the classic hymn, “Noel” was first released on a cassette decades ago, but hasn’t lost a bit of its psychedelic allure. The high-speed song takes some twists and turns, and includes angelic backup vocals.

On “The Little Drummer Boy,”the band kicks off a head trip to Bethlehem with church organ music before moving on to a slow-moving, dreamy arrangement. The digital album includes a pair of original tunes as well. The melodic snippet “Lucky Christmas Time” could be a carol for gamblers, with the line, “enjoy your wealth” mixed in with words of holiday cheer. The nostalgic “Wonderful Red Stockings” is fun look at a family gathering on Christmas morning, and adroitly blends rock and classical music. 

Australian singer/multi-instrumentalist Joe Algeri has a history of releasing pop-oriented Christmas music. A few years back, he recorded “Chris Hillman Christmas” with The Britannicas, an international trio that includes himself, Swede Mangus Karlsson and American Herb Eimerman. The chiming, heavily 1960s influenced song was a combination tribute to The Byrds’ guitarist and a fun celebration of the season. In 2012, performing under the name The JAC, he put out a full-length CD of off-kilter holiday songs titled I See Things Differently.

The recently released “I Dont Want Your Christmas Presents” once again reflects Algeri’s fascination with The Byrds. The signature ringing guitars are in place, and Algeri creates some tight harmonies with Eimerman and other guests. As with most of his material—seasonal or otherwise—the lyrics are clever and a bit unconventional. “I Dont Want Your Christmas Presents,” which is followed in the song with the line, “I just want your presence,” depicts a guy who’s not sure if he and his globetrotting girlfriend will still be together on Christmas day. Using the holiday season as a backdrop for heartache goes back at least as far as “Blue Christmas” by Elvis Presley, but The JAC puts his own spin on the situation. “I Don't Want Your Christmas Presents” is available as a free download on Algeri’s Bandcamp page.    

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