One listen to “Automatic Lover” by Moritat showcases that there’s plenty of great stuff to be done with chilled-out electronic-pop fusion. This is a song which morphs numerous times during its seven minutes, constantly shifting to keep listeners on our toes. The great thing about Clill Blanzin, which has only been out for a little over a week, is that Chicago’s Moritat, a power-trio which clearly doesn’t like to repeat itself, knows how far to push an audience before pulling back and shifting musical directions.
As a band, Moritat consistently experiments with its sonic palate, making lazy comparisons seem pointless. “Cats,” the single off the new album, provides the most radio-worthy track on the entire LP, but even that song is a genre-bending experiment in how much depth and creativity casual listeners will put up with to find a hidden gem. Here’s hoping, as I have long believed, that listeners are far more open to new things than most industry folks give credit for. Moritat isn’t always the easiest band to love from the first pressing of the play button, but the fact that they can put out hard-driving pop-rock and grooving experimental electronic-based fusions on the same album deserves wider notice.
Chicago’s Filligar is a road-tested, high octane
blend of Southern roots rock and modern alternative
which is at once invigorating to hear and yet vastly underexposed. Fans will testify the band’s roadshow,
both solo and with others, is unparalleled.
So why haven’t you heard of them?
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If Beware of Darkness deserves credit for reviving music inspired by Led Zeppelin into the modern consciousness, music junkies should be flocking to Chicago’s own Filligar for equal doses of Allman Brothers grit and Levon Helm-inspired lyricism. This band’s got the whole package, and after six albums they’ve morphed from what was primarily an in-studio exercise to being among the best rock acts I’ve seen live, period.
Granted, I only was lucky enough to catch them opening for Counting Crows — which meant they only got to play six songs as part of a four-band traveling roadshow. But the energy they put out there, coupled with their incredibly tight arrangements and ridiculously catchy songs, and I have to wonder: Why aren’t they household names?
The band’s sixth album, The Nerve, has been out since 2010 and was a nominee for the Independent Music Awards’ Rock Album of the Year in 2011. Even a cursory listen reveals the band’s incredible gift for melody and blues-rock revivalism. Johnny Mathias handles vocal duties with the assured grit of the Black Keys, meshing perfectly with keyboardist Casey Gibson’s Gregg Allman-esque skill on the Hammond B3 and a rollicking rhythm section few of their peers can challenge. This is music which sounds on first listen as though we’ve been singing these songs for years. The Nerve brings their live sound into the studio, making it an assuredly confident album which, even two years after its release, has the potential to be their breakthrough.
I sat down with Casey Gibson and Teddy Mathias after their Outlaw Road Show set, opening for Counting Crows at Louisville’s Iroquois Amphitheater this past Monday night. You can view the result below. Then check out their video for “Robbery (Shocking Love)” and tell me these guys aren’t your new favorite band. I dare you!
Watch the video first, before you read anything I have to say:
Three words …. what the fuck? This may be the most awesome video I’ve seen in months, a visual experience which matches the aural twists and turns the music already provides. On this basis alone I immediately know I want to hear more, and quickly! The song leads off the band’s latest release, EP3, a five-track extravaganza blending serious psychedelic insanity with the guitar-wielding crunch of modern acts like the Gay Blades, Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols. They’re definitely worth keeping an ear on as the year gets going!
Year of the Album — #086
Grand & Noble – “Grand & Noble” (2012, Independent)
I’m really getting excited about the music coming in 2012, and Grand & Noble’s self-titled debut (out January 10, 2012, or right now as a name your price download via the band’s website) is right at the front of the pack. Fronted by Jon Elling’s emblematic vocals, which resonate immediately and provide a real sense of depth to the music, the band rocks out with touches of Wilco-inspired alt-country and more than a bit of modern piano blues-rock thrown in for good measure. “This Light” gets the album going in the right direction with a touch of Ryan Adams guitar melded with a bassline which brings to mind Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. Lyrically it’s right up Kellogg’s alley: “Call me up and say what’s there left to do but save our money for some ordinary shoes? I don’t believe the fun must end so soon …” Elling queries, raising his plaintive vocals to the sky as he wails the chorus: “Don’t say it’s over! Don’t say it’s over! Don’t say it’s over ’til you’re through.” By the time the song reaches its zenith you’ll be hoping this song won’t have to be over anytime soon.
“Paris (and Danielle)” picks up the reins from there with a touch of bass-heavy blues melded with a throughline of piano which pushes the song into the territory of top 40 music too good for top 40 to ever dare to play. “Feel the heat now, feel the friction – living life without permission,” Ellis sings forcefully, as the song takes its own motives to heart, the guitars crunching with wild abandon as the band breaks it all down and makes this seem so damned easy. But the band really brings it home on the soulful, introspective “Episcopal,” which features excellent harmonies over acoustic guitar and piano: “Somewhere in my shattered faith the chance I want is waiting there,” Elling sings as the band provides him wth a backdrop so filled with measured yearning it’s impossible not to keep the faith in what this band’s offering.
The rest of the album lives up to the challenge these songs set for Grand & Noble, crafting a debut of self-assured daring and willingness to build on what’s come before while forging their own identity. This is an album which is immediately revealing of a major artistic force, while the music reveals intricate original touches that will challenge any self-respecting music fan to listen repeatedly long into the new year. I’ll go out on a limb and say you won’t find many more adventurous debuts in 2012 or any other year. Put succinctly, Grand & Noble is a keeper.
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You can sample songs from the album below via Bandcamp:
Year of the Album — #028
L’Altra – “Telepathic” (2011, Acuarela Disco Records)
Chicago’s L’Altra have released their fourth studio album, Telepathic, and it’s the band’s strongest work to date. The album showcases a band fully at home within their musical element, and it’s well worth checking out. My review of the album ran at Stereo Subversion this weekend. You can read the entire review here. The bottom line, however, is that in the end, L’Altra manages to craft the perfect fourth album, music which does as much for new listeners as it does for the already converted, making it one of the more interesting indie releases of the year thus far.