1 PM Free Energy
1 PM Netherfriends Also Sun 7/18 at Double Door, 21+.
1:45 PM Real Estate Over the past year or so this New Jersey combo (relocated to Brooklyn, as so many do) has staked out prized territory in many an indie record geek’s heart with a succession of great singles—sweet little bits of bubblegum, lightly played and sunk into waves of vintage-style reverb and treble-heavy twang, all tossed off so casually they seem effortless. Late in 2009 they were collected into a self-titled album released by the hot-shit Woodsist label. Also Fri 7/16 at Beauty Bar (DJ set), 21+, and Sun 7/18 at Subterranean, 17+.
1:55 PM Sonny & the Sunsets
2:30 PM Delorean Also Fri 7/16 at the Empty Bottle, 21+, and Beauty Bar (DJ set), 21+.
2:50 PM Kurt Vile Philadelphia-based singer-guitarist Kurt Vile veers between stadium-ready rock god and bedroom-studio shut-in on his two recent Matador releases. The guy’s got a gift for writing lift-your-lighter anthems like the Suicide-meets-the Feelies jam “Freak Train” and the bluesy “Inside Lookin’ Out,” but he sounds just as invested strumming two-line acoustic throwaways. His backing combo, the Violators, brings out his righteous side on record, so I’m betting Vile will deliver some big rock moments today. Also at Subterranean tonight, 17+.
3:20 PM Titus Andronicus Titus Andronicus‘s self-titled 2008 debut was a sprawling mess that tried to crossbreed nervy, nihilistic hardcore and the more epic moments of Born to Run, and though most of the songs ended up flaming out before they reached their potential, they did so spectacularly. The band’s recent follow-up, The Monitor (XL), only tweaks the formula, but they’ve got a better grip on the wheel, and this time their punk/Boss hybrids cohere into something more coherent and compelling but no less volatile. Also Friday 7/16 at Subterranean, 17+.
3:45 PM Dam-Funk LA producer, DJ, and party promoter Dam-Funk has the retro-futuristic look to go with his retro-futuristic electro-funk. Like Prince, Roger Troutman, and a slew of funk visionaries from the pre-hip-hop era—and unlike many artists in the generations that followed—he not only cherishes the synthesizer’s robotic sheen but also takes care to preserve the imperfections that come with a human touch. What sets him apart from those forebears is that he’ll let his songs—like the addictive “Mirrors,” from last year’s massive Toeachizown (Stones Throw)—drift like a pothead’s attention. Also Thu 7/15 at Bottom Lounge with Neon Indian and El-P (DJ set); free with RSVP to uptheantics.com/pitchfork, 18+.
4:15 PM Raekwon Raekwon is probably the member of Wu-Tang with the least interest
in the group’s metaphysical vibe, preferring grimy cinematic depictions of drug slinging and the criminal life. His 1995 solo debut, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx . . . , set the template for more than a decade of verite trap-rap narratives, and last year’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx . . . Pt. II was a welcome return to form after some less-than-stellar efforts. The recent mix tape Cocainism: Vol. 2—a tense, dizzying block of beats stuffed full of Raekwon’s typically complex lyrics—suggests that he’s back to stay.
4:45 PM Smith Westerns This local quartet of garage-rock basement dwellers began 2009 so far under the radar that they had a hard time getting gigs in Chicago’s better-known clubs and ended it as the darlings of Internet tastemakers like Pitchfork, which gave them a slot on its stage at Spain’s Primavera Sound festival this spring. Not bad for a band where nobody’s hit legal drinking age yet. Smith Westerns have all the makings of a hype group—youth, ‘tude, fashion sense, a taste for the type of antisocial antics that online gossip columnists live for—but their reputation rests on a solid (albeit so far somewhat limited) musical foundation. Their self-titled full-length for HoZac is split down the middle between sugary flower punk with more hooks than the past few Black Lips records and hazy, fuzzy T. Rex homages that reimagine Marc Bolan’s band as a lo-fi
home-recording project for scuzzballs.
5:15 PM The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Six years ago, with their originality, popularity, and critical standing all on the wane, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion for all intents and purposes broke up—since then Spencer has struggled to find an audience in Heavy Trash, a duo with Matt Verta-Ray; guitarist Judah Bauer has backed Chan Marshall in Cat Power; and drummer Russell Simins has collaborated with Dan the Automator in Men Without Pants. But they never actually announced a breakup, so I suppose technically this isn’t a reunion, just the end of a hiatus—though given the ever-shortening length of the breakup-reunion cycle, the difference is purely semantic. The return of the Blues Explosion coincides with an ambitious reissue campaign by Shout! Factory, which so far has produced new versions of 1996’s Now I Got Worry and the 1997 live album Controversial Negro, both with loads of bonus tracks, and the compilation Dirty Shirt Rock ‘n’ Roll: The First Ten Years. With the exception of their uninspired last album, 2004’s Damage, the trio’s body of work still sounds pretty damn fine—particularly Now I Got Worry, where skeletal, punk-driven blues-rock and rock ‘n’ roll, exuberantly in-the-red production, and Spencer’s sticky, shticky swagger collide in perfect proportions. Though the band didn’t meet that gold standard on every album in their original 16-year run, they were always killer live, thanks to pile-driving in-the-pocket primitivism from Simins and gritty, inventive guitar from Bauer, who played Keith Richards to Spencer’s Mick Jagger. I doubt anything has changed on that front.
5:45 PM Why?
6:15 PM Wolf Parade
6:45 PM Bear in Heaven Also tonight at Lincoln Hall, 18+.
7:25 PM Panda Bear Noah Lennox of Animal Collective, aka Panda Bear, will likely play a set heavy on music from the limited-edition seven-inch series he began this week with “Tomboy” b/w “Slow Motion” (Paw Tracks), whose A side is the title track of his upcoming third album, due in September. On this release Lennox doesn’t attempt the charming multitracked Beach Boys-style harmonies that made 2007’s Person Pitch such a hit, but despite its relatively modest execution the music retains much of that album’s appeal, with looped rhythms, hydroplaning drones, and understated melodic shapes. Minimal electric strumming enhances the A side, and both songs are awash in lots of murky echo.
7:40 PM Freddie Gibbs Before Freddie Gibbs put out his mix tape Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik last year, the Gary native was just another MC dropped from a major label without a release. Now he’s being touted by many critics as a potential rap superstar, and the people at Interscope must be kicking themselves—Midwestgangsta and its predecessor The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs both include lots of tracks he made while he was still with the label. His taste in beats runs toward the dark, paranoid Houston style that dominates a good chunk of mainstream rap, and his vocals add a bit of syrupy Houston flow to the double-time delivery that Twista and Crucial Conflict made synonymous with Chicago. See also Sharp Darts, page 40.
8:30 PM LCD Soundsystem I imagine the question James Murphy gets asked most often is whether he’s serious or joking, and the answer is probably yes. Even on LCD Soundsystem‘s relatively mature albums, Sound of Silver and This Is Happening, there are traces of the smart-ass who broke out a decade ago via the hilarious quasi-novelty song “Losing My Edge,” but Murphy’s self-conscious hybrid dance music—which combines disco, house, pop, indie rock, punk, postpunk, and an assortment of other subgenres worthy of a record geek who shouts out Suicide, Larry Levan, David Axelrod, and the Sonics in the same song—couldn’t be any more lovingly crafted, or any more wickedly addictive.