Let's face it: over the past year, Chicago's indie music scene saw a lot of good music. What you may not know is that a lot of the bands doing it live also put albums out this year. If you've been following my blogs for a while, you may know that I gravitate toward both the jangly, loud, and electric bands in the Chicago scene as well as groups with a folkier, more acoustic feel. Embracing my twin loves, I decided to split my top ten into two parts. I'll have plenty to say about folk/Americana-type releases tomorrow, but tonight, my friends are all electric.
Five of my ten favorite albums released by local bands this year were, in no particular order...
White Mystery, White Mystery: Homegrown sibling garage rock doesn't get much better than duo Alex and Francis White, and I'm pretty sure you have to be living under a rock somewhere in our fair city not to know who they are. They always seem to be playing live in town (case in point: you can see them tomorrow night for a New Year's Eve shindig at the Abbey Pub), and always play well (I have seen them at least half a dozen times in the past twelve months, and have yet to see them play a set that was less than awesome). Their debut full-length (self-titled and released independently) manages to capture the exuberance of their live show; I dare you to throw it on your hi-fi and try to stop the inevitable onset of toe-tapping that follows. (Unsigned; available in CD, vinyl, and digital formats here).
See White Mystery live at the Abbey Pub on Friday, December 31, 2010.
Village, Minimal Animal: The much-anticipated first full-length release from ex-Living Blue frontman Stephen Ucherek's new band Village saw its release this year via CD Baby with a minimum of fanfare, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a great album, because it absolutely was. The thing I especially like about Village is that there are so many interesting things going on in the music. They synthesize a diverse array of sounds, styles, and influences into this delightful organic whole that just makes you feel good when you hear it. (Unsigned; available in CD and digital formats here).
Check out an audio interview and live performance with Stephen Ucherek and Mike Racky of Village here.
See Village live at the Empty Bottle on Thursday, February 10, 2011.
King Sparrow, King Sparrow: If I had to pick the one album by a Chicago band that blew me away this year, it was beautifully mastered self-titled full-length from Chicago rock trio King Sparrow. Being very familiar with the band (and all the songs present on the album) prior to its release, I was not expecting any surprises, but my jaw still dropped the first time I heard the finished product. It's that good. The band's sound runs the gamut from gritty and nasty to surfy and poppy, and listening to the finished album, you can tell it was an intense labor of love for all the parties who had a hand in its creation. It is absolutely spot-on, in terms of songcraft, performance, and production. (Unsigned; available in CD and digital formats here).
Check out an audio interview and live acoustic performance with Eric Georgevich of King Sparrow here.
Disappears, Lux: This album from shoegazy garage rockers Disappears lives up to its namesake (and minimalistic album art) with a collection of songs with melodies that filter through a velvety haze of fuzzed-out guitar and bass like a beam of light in a dark, smoky room. The sound is raw and hypnotic, with a crystal-clear recording that captures the band's murky live sound; they're constantly playing with smoke and mirrors, and somehow, it just works. Really, really well. (On Kranky records; available in CD, vinyl, and digital formats here).
See Disappears live at the Empty Bottle on Friday, February 4, 2011.
Secret Colours, Secret Colours: This full-length debut from Chicago psych-pop revivalists Secret Colours is thoroughly enjoyable, from start to finish (read a full review here). The album blends foggy psychedelic flavoring with a sweet naivete that wears very well indeed. The band members definitely wear their influences on their sleeves on this record, but there isn't a bad track in the bunch. (Unsigned; available in CD and digital formats here).
Check out an audio interview and live acoustic performance with Secret Colours here.
See Secret Colours live at Subterranean on Saturday, January 8, 2011.