Mgła, With Hearts Toward None
Mgła, With Hearts Toward None

Philip Montoro,
Reader music editor

Mgła, With Hearts Toward None It’s pronounced “mgwah,” roughly, and it means “fog” in Polish. I’ve been listening obsessively to this 2012 album at work: hideously lush with corrosive dissonance, its stark, dessicated black metal harrows its mournful melodies with regimented rhythms. I especially like the busy, intricate cymbal work, which glitters atop the music’s seesawing churn like silver filigree on the face of a seaside cliff, giving its hopeless trudge an almost sprightly swing. “I can’t go on, I’ll go on,” as Beckett put it.

Sete Star Sept at Albion House on Fri 6/7 I wanted to see deranged Japanese grindcore duo Sete Star Sept because the tracks I’d heard online only occasionally sound like they could’ve been made with instruments—some of them don’t even seem to involve humans. Maybe a mike lowered into the intake of a turbofan? Their unhinged stage show (well, basement-floor show) turned out to be endearingly silly. Vocalist-­bassist Kae ended the set by propping her bass against an amp to feed back, bulling through the crowd, and dropping to the filthy cement, where she rolled around screaming; drummer Kiyasu calmly lifted his snare from its stand, sat down cross-legged next to her, and played it in his lap.

My new Bolt Thrower shirt The only way to buy a Bolt Thrower shirt, barring gray-market resellers, is at a Bolt Thrower show—and the band’s previous Chicago date was in 1991. I got one at Reggie’s last month, and I’ve worn it at least seven times already. Bet you wish you could smell it!

Philip is curious what’s in the rotation of …

U.S. Air Guitar Midwest Semifinals
U.S. Air Guitar Midwest SemifinalsCredit: Andrew Huff

Melissa Oglesby,
Girls Rock! Chicago outreach director

Mikal Cronin at the Empty Bottle on Tue 6/11 Mikal Cronin‘s new MCII is full of beautifully orchestrated, shimmery summertime jams, and I can’t stop, won’t stop listening—don’t kill me for saying this, but it may be the Pet Sounds of 2013. Given MCII‘s hooky, catchy charm, it surprised the hell out of me when Cronin abandoned his sensitive-­boy-next-door affect at the Bottle last month and put on one of the rawest, most frenetic live shows I’ve seen in ages. Making especially fine showings were drummer Emily Rose Epstein and Cronin’s incredibly dirty hair, both of which kept me blissfully smashed up against the stage for the entire set.

U.S. Air Guitar Midwest Semifinals at Metro on Sat 7/27 I don’t know what this says about me, but every year I look forward more to watching people pretend to play guitar than I do to most actual rock shows. U.S. Air Guitar contestants are judged on technical merit, stage presence, and “airness”—plus of course in­human athletic feats, goofy comedy, and the best stage names you’ll ever hear. Bjorn Turoque hosts, and some of my fave air-guitar heavies make special appearances, including 2012 world champ (and local hero) Nordic Thunder and my old friend (and international legend) Hot Lixx Hulahan. I’m in it for the love of the sport, but the dirty hair (see also Mikal Cronin) doesn’t hurt.

Star Tropics I’d thought twee was all but dead, but then Chicago’s Star Tropics showed up to teach me a (mild-­mannered and respectful) lesson. I’m a sucker for dreamy, whimsical pop songs, and the band’s swoon-worthy boy-girl harmonies will keep theirs in my rotation all summer long.

Star Tropics open for Lightfoils at Subterranean on Sun 7/7.

Melissa is curious what’s in the rotation of …

Kate Walsh,
saxophonist, Girl Group Chicago

Janelle Monae, “Q.U.E.E.N. This newish single from Janelle Monae (which features Erykah Badu) is your liberating summer jam. This is the song for when the too-cool kids are holding the wall at the house party and you and your friends say eff this and dance it out in the living room ’cause you got no time at all for the haters. There’s a brilliant video, a rap that’s like the best bits on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and affirmations of twerking in the mirror and dancing alone late at night. What more can I say?

Marisa Anderson, Mercury I was lucky enough to work with Marisa Anderson when I lived in Portland, Oregon. I’ve had her 2011 record The Golden Hour on heavy rotation for a while, and Mercury just came out last month. The short, improvised, instrumental guitar pieces are simple but lush, melodically powerful, and rooted in American folk and country traditions without being derivative. There are tinges of magic in Marisa’s music: empty-desert magic and rocky-coast California magic and old-growth Oregon magic. You encounter a contemplative unease on some songs and a centering familiarity on others.

Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story I don’t know if I have Oregon on my mind because I’m headed out there later this summer, but I’ve been really into watching the extra footage and best parts from Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story. Fred and (especially) Toody of Dead Moon are an inspiration in this 2006 band documentary. If your DIY spirit needs rejuvenating or if you ever feel like you’re too old to do what you love, watch it.

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.