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Perfume Genius reaches out with bigger, bolder arrangements on the new No Shape

Since emerging at the start of the decade, Seattle singer-songwriter Mike Hadreas (who performs as Perfume Genius) has displayed steady growth and a dramatic expansion of sound, morphing from a soulful albeit tortured piano balladeer into a full-blown art-pop experimenter. His new album No Shape (Matador) was produced by Blake Mills, and it situates Hadreas’s […]

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America’s bad-vibe underground takes over Metro for a night with sets by Wolf Eyes, Pharmakon, and Aaron Dilloway

This bum-out extravaganza organized by Nate Young of Wolf Eyes suggests that if you stay focused within the underground long enough there’s a good chance you’ll ascend—at least enough to headline Metro. The Trip Metal Fest features a crew of like-minded outsiders who’ve achieved a modicum of success without doing anything to curry favors; the […]

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On their strong new album Song of the Rose, Arbouretum explore rebirth in turbulent times

Dave Heumann, front man for Baltimore’s long-running Arbouretum, isn’t shy about reaching toward the profound while addressing transformation on the recent Song of the Rose (Thrill Jockey). The elegantly lumbering opening track, “Call Upon the Fire,” announces a need to break free of atrophy and wipe the slate clean, burning something down in order to […]

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On Love & Hate singer Michael Kiwanuka evokes a 60s noir closer to Portishead than to Stax Records

On his stirring second album, Love & Hate (Interscope), British singer Michael Kiwanuka writes in broad strokes, allowing listeners to adapt themes to their own lives in ways that sting. Given a patient, spacious sound by coproducer Brian Burton (aka Danger Mouse), the record opens with a string-laden track that builds in intensity for some […]

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Free-jazz trio Survival Unit III offers a tongue-in-cheek promise to revisit an early recording

The description of tonight’s performance on Experimental Sound Studio’s website claims that the astringent free-jazz trio Survival Unit III will play a “re-imagining” of its 2015 album Barrow Street Blues (Holiday), which documents an improvised concert the group gave at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2004. There’s some puckish wit in claiming that multi-instrumentalist Joe […]

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TALsounds’ latest, Love Sick, combines drone and pop to create cascades of sonic warmth

Over the last few years Chicagoan Natalie Chami’s output has been prolific, both as a member of improvisational noise trio Goodwill Smith and as her solo project TALsounds. It was just in October that Hausu Mountain released Lifter + Lighter—the latter’s most focused, cohesive effort to date—but its follow-up, Love Sick (Ba Da Bing Records), […]

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Though she’s trying to crash the big time by merging blues and pop R&B, ZZ Ward loves her roots

ZZ Ward has dedicated her career to merging blues with contemporary pop R&B, achieving fair aesthetic results and mixed commercial success. Her single “The Deep,” off her sophomore album The Storm (out at the end of June on Hollywood), is a fine example of that approach. A meaty riff with chopped-up blues-slide notes dripping around […]