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With their love of horror, hard rock, and monster costumes, Finland’s Lordi are a Valentine’s miracle

Plenty of metal bands use horror to sharpen their fangs, but few are as transparent about their interest in courting pop music with goblins and ghouls as Finland’s Lordi. And few have been as successful as Lordi. In 2006 the band performed dressed in elaborate monster costumes—as is their signature—for the long-running, multinational Eurovision Songwriting […]

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Easy Not Easy enlists a diverse cast of composers to offer pieces that require no rehearsal

Chicago musician Matt Mehlan (Skeletons) has occasionally organized a project he calls Easy Not Easy, which is his response to an endeavor by experimental composer and musician David Behrman that focuses on “deceptively simple scores,” compositions that offer performers significant leeway and input. Mehlan’s effort began in New York in 2010 and enlists a number […]

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Singer and Zero Fatigue member Ravyn Lenae balances R&B aspirations with high school

In 2013 LA collective cum indie label Soulection launched a digital white-label series, dropping an EP by local beat maker Monte Booker in October 2015. For that EP’s closer “Baby” Booker recruited Chicago R&B singer Ravyn Lenae—a fellow member of local collective Zero Fatigue, along with ascending rapper Smino—whose luminescent vocals playfully swerve around fluttering […]

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Trumpeter Darren Johnston’s affinity for the Chicago improvised music scene was no secret in 2016

Superb Bay Area trumpeter Darren Johnston has been a regular visitor to Chicago for nearly a decade, and over that time he’s fortified his connection to the local improvised music scene. Last year he dropped three recordings, two of them featuring Chicagoans. On Neutral Nation (Aerophonic), saxophonist Dave Rempis sparred with him and veteran Bay […]

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Though they play it safe, White Lies provide a gateway to Joy Division and the Smiths for a new generation of punks

On last October’s Friends (BMG) White Lies have almost all of the ingredients for greatness: the lean and direct rhythms of early U2, the airy synths of 154-era Wire, and the hopeful-albeit-dark melodic sense of New Order. But the one major component missing from this London-based postpunk trio’s formula is the actual punk—these tunes are […]

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Together Aisha Orazbayeva and Joe Houston play Cage, Feldman, and Wolff

In response to President Trump’s recent executive order on immigration Aisha Orazbayeva has canceled her upcoming tour. Kazakhstan-born, London-based violinist Aisha Orazbayeva and British pianist Joe Houston have each found ways to reconcile contemporary classical music practice with traditional repertoire. Houston’s dynamic approach sounds apposite on both the Franz Liszt and John Cage pieces posted […]

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On American Band, Drive-By Truckers dig through the country’s toxic mix of violence and racism

Few working bands embrace their southern heritage as proudly as Georgia’s Drive-By Truckers, which makes their decision to wade right through the country’s political divide all the more stunning. The group intentionally dropped its strong new album American Band (ATO) at the end of September, just as the presidential election neared the height of its […]

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Acoustic guitarist Daniel Bachman is much more than a disciple of John Fahey

Daniel Bachman continues to see past the limitations of acoustic guitar music. He’s only 26, but he’s already waxed nearly a dozen albums (not counting side projects released under different names), revealing a quiet virtuosity that’s always subservient to mood and tone. His strongest work yet, November’s eponymous album for Three Lobed, artlessly braids together […]

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On Brokenlegged, Sinai Vessel front man Caleb Cordres wants a view from both sides of the aisle

In a recent interview with radio program cum music site the Alternative, Sinai Vessel founder and front man Caleb Cordes said his band’s brand-new full-length, Brokenlegged (Tiny Engines), is “about living with a new awareness and how that can alienate you from having contact with people who don’t have the same awareness.” Cordes, who’s written […]

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Moon Tooth take as many left turns as their wicked prog metal allows on Chromaparagon

This Long Island quartet threw down a gauntlet with their 2013 debut EP Freaks: 14 filler-free minutes of wickedly efficient prog metal. But on their debut self-released full-length, Chromaparagon, Moon Tooth stretch out and settle in, proving that they can comfortably sustain their inventiveness over a long span. There’s a little bit of Converge and […]