Girl Group Chicago
Girl Group Chicago Credit: Richard Rhyme

Philip Montoro,
Reader music editor

Fanfare Ciocarlia at Summerdance The Roma know how to fucking party. The members of this indefatigable Romanian brass band warmed up their mouthpieces preshow with cigarettes in their free hands and ended their thrillingly rambunctious set down on the dance floor, playing shoulder-­to-shoulder with the sweaty, delirious crowd. So much dancing! And from those of us who didn’t know the traditional steps, so much lunatic jumping around!

Gorguts, Colored Sands (Season of Mist) Luc Lemay and his new all-star lineup just released the first Gorguts album in 12 years. I miss the late Steeve Hurdle’s psychotically desperate vocals and bizarro guitar, but the band’s thorny, corrosive death metal hasn’t abandoned its mad ambition—it’s the sound of spiritual seeking sharpened into life-or-death hunger. Some rhythms spur the songs mercilessly onward, while others confound them and drag them down—the tension feels like being drawn and quartered.

Girl Group Chicago I finally caught this gargantuan girl-group cover band at the Hideout Block Party, and now I’m sorry about every time I didn’t see them over the past year and a half. (Not least because I used to play in the Afflictions with tenor saxophonist Kelly Argyle.) They strike the perfect balance between winking at the dated material and having a huge, contagious amount of fun with it. My favorite parts: Sara Heymann’s bad-girl sass, Stephanie Rohr’s startling contralto on “You Don’t Own Me,” and Andrea “Whack Minx” Jablonski‘s awesomely out-of-place metal-warrior bass stance. Oh and they did the Shangri-Las’ “Great Big Kiss.” I’m in love.

Philip is curious what’s in the rotation of …

Elle Quintana, talent buyer at Reggie’s

The Babys, “Shounen KnifeI can’t remember how I stumbled across the Babys. I think it was during a whiskey-fueled Internet binge in 2005. I saw the “Shounen Knife” video and fell in love. This three-piece from Japan plays an odd and thoroughly enjoyable mix of guitar-heavy Brit-rock and pop. Their music isn’t easy to find, but I hope you do. They also soundtracked the animated version of the manga series Paradise Kiss.

Typefighter, I Want to See You Game, Boys, I Want to See You Brave (self-released) Only rarely do I get so obsessed with a band on my stage that I wear out their CD in my car, but it happened with D.C.’s Typefighter. The 2009 album I Want to See You Game, Boys, I Want to See You Brave has elements of indie, bluegrass, sadness, struggle, and hope. They played Reggie’s once, nearly five years ago, and people in the bar shook my hand and thanked me for the experience of seeing them live.

Tindersticks, the second Tindersticks album (London) In 1995 I made a lot of bad decisions. Short, rainbow-colored hair, lots of piercings, regrettable tattoos, equally regrettable boyfriends. One thing I’ll never regret, though, is falling for Tindersticks’ second self-titled album. Stuart Staples, who fronts this British chamber-­pop band, has the most beautiful, melancholy baritone I’ve ever heard. His duet with Carla Torgerson of the Walkabouts on “Travelling Light” never gets old, and “My Sister” is deeply disturbing in its sadness and beauty. To this day the combo of Stuart’s voice, the orchestra, and the heart-wrenching and almost over-the-top lyrics makes me want to rip my heart out and fall in love at the same time.

Elle is curious what’s in the rotation of …

The Sword
The SwordCredit: Sam Holden

Robert Dean, writer, journalist, cynic

The documentary Heartworn Highways Shot in late 1975 and early ’76, Heartworn Highways captures outlaw country at its most finite and pure. The film is raw and without hokey context. It’s been out of print since its ’81 release, minus an ephemeral reissue, so you’ve gotta hunt it down online. Townes Van Zandt is the true star of the film, and his heart-murdering rendition of “Waiting Around to Die” will leave you in pieces. The final scene—a table littered with wine and whiskey bottles, ashtrays filled with ashes of all kinds, guitars strummed toward the heavens—is a thing of beauty.

Fifth on the Floor, Ashes & Angels (eOne Music) Fifth on the Floor are the realest thing you’re going to get in country rock. If you’re into classic Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat, and the like, you need to get hip to these dudes. It defies all logic that they’re not a household name. They’re an honest, whiskey-drinking, weed-­smoking kind of band, playing the kind of tunes you jam shooting pool or driving some back road. There’s no shitty dude in a sleeveless denim shirt with sparkly jeans. They’re all ugly sons of bitches who play from the heart. Also, no keytars or dubstep remixes.

The Sword, Apocryphon (Razor & Tie) The best metal band touring hard and making relevant records right now. Once the Sword found the sweet spot among their influences—less Metallica, more Pentagram and Black Sabbath—they found their sound. Anyone who burned out on “Freya” as a Guitar Hero tune needs to give the Sword’s new one a fair listen. There’s no filler, and every song is fast, epic, and packed with so many riffs to air guitar to like a total dork.

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. Philip has played scrap metal in Lozenge, drummed with the Disasters, the Afflictions, and Brilliant Pebbles, and sung for the White Outs. He wrote the column Beer and Metal from 2012 till 2015, and hopes to do so again one day. You can also follow him on Twitter.