A Reader staffer shares three musical obsessions, then asks someone (who asks someone else) to take a turn.
Philip Montoro, Reader music editor
Friends of the Gamelan at Hyde Park Union Church on May 13 The massed metallophones of traditional Indonesian gamelan ensembles sound like a heavenly clockwork of ineffable complexity and patience. At the public concerts of this Chicago nonprofit, founded in 1980, attendees are sometimes invited to play the instruments afterward, provided they take off their shoes and behave themselves. I recommend sticking your head inside the big bass gong, the gong ageng, and having somebody lay into it with a mallet.
Celestial Bodies, Spit Forth From Chaos I’ve been disappointed by lots of black-metal bands whose PR insists they’re inspired by free jazz. Netherlands-based duo Celestial Bodies—aka electronicist Vincent Koreman of Nihill and drummer René Aquarius of Dead Neanderthals—actually deliver. Their nightmarishly anarchic debut album often maintains its relentless momentum without a clear unanimous pulse or steady tempo, so that I’m entirely prepared to believe it’s at least in part freely improvised. Aquarius’s drumming hammers and spatters like a hailstorm, and the deranged buzzsaw of Koreman’s distorted noise swirls, yaws, and lunges like a howling wind trying to tear the windows out of your house.
Can, “Turtles Have Short Legs” Much of the music I find restorative is frankly ugly and unpleasant (see above). But I’m confident that all humans can enjoy the jaunty, playful riffs, goofy lyrics, and irresistibly frisky drumming in this 1971 Can single. We miss you, Jaki.
Philip is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Danielle Sines, front woman and songwriter of Impulsive Hearts
The Chantels, We Are the Chantels When it gets sunny, I start digging through my Motown and doo-wop collection. One of my favorites is the Chantels’ 1958 debut album. Arlene Smith’s voice is like no other, cutting through the luscious backing harmonies with angelic perfection. At age 16, Smith cowrote their first hit, “Maybe,” and it sends chills down my spine every time I hear it. Find a copy with the original cover—five young black women in matching peach dresses—not the reissue with a cartoony white couple at a jukebox.
Various artists, Girls Rock! Chicago: July 2016 I’m always declaring my love for Girls Rock! Chicago—a weeklong summer camp where girls and transgender youth learn to play instruments and be in a band (including a live show and a recording session). The 2016 camp mix was just released, and it sounds incredible. Listen to Frizzza Sistaz’ “Tame Your Mane”—they belt out blended harmonies and rap about self-respect. I started to cry like a little baby. How do eight-year-olds do it?
Willie Nelson, God’s Problem Child Ah, Willie, I can’t stop listening to your new record. It’s perfect for staying outside late, stargazing and enjoying the beautiful Chicago weather. This record fits with his classic catalog, yet now he sure-handedly tackles the subjects of age and time. “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” dedicated to Merle Haggard, is my favorite. If this ballad doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, then may God have mercy on your cold dead soul. I’m driving to Austin for his July 4 bash—I’ll be holding the sign from Chicago with love <3.
Danielle is curious what’s in the rotation of . . .
Amelia Hruby, codirector of features at CHIRP
Questlove, Somethingtofoodabout Last year Questlove put out a beautiful book of interviews with innovative chefs and photos of their restaurants and food. While it’s sometimes rambling and a bit too arty for its own good, I love how much insight you can glean when two artists in different fields come together in conversation. Plus the cover image is a fruit-and-vegetable portrait of Questlove himself in the style of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, with a potato face and kale Afro.
Angela James, Women of the World Take Over at the Hideout At Angela James’s March residency at the Hideout, the first show featured Chicago women covering other Chicago women from all eras and genres. Have you ever wanted to see Bethany Thomas cover Veruca Salt’s “Benjamin” or Sima and Macie from Ohmme take on Minnie Riperton and Mavis Staples? Do you dream about Sally Timms singing Freakwater or Tasha Viets-VanLear channeling Chaka Khan? Months later, I’m still thinking about these amazing women taking over that stage (aka the world).
Screaming Females covering Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” In a recent interview for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, Sheryl Crow talks about how this song was inspired by her rise to fame. Apparently a lot of her stoner friends thought she was “selling out” when she landed on Top 40 radio. Either way, it reminded me how much I love Screaming Females’ cover, recorded for an A.V. Club session. Screaming Females (and Sheryl Crow) do all my friend angst justice.