14 Chicago Bands To Watch In 2014

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There are thousands of great local bands playing every week in our fair city. Some you might know and some you might not. Seeing as it’s the beginning of a brand new year, we thought we’d point out some local bands who we think you might want to keep your eye on in 2014. sn’t it always cool to say you were a fan of popular act back in the day when they were playing for eight people in a crappy dive bar? Yes, it is always cool. (Ed. Note: Although numbered, this list is in no particular order)

1291804_533839190017824_2077515119_oFlesh Panthers are one of those bands where you can virtually smell the spilt whiskey rising from the dilapidated rock club floor upon every listen. Lost in the haze between snarling punk rock and sleazy garage jams, Flesh Panthers have the rock ‘n’ roll sound and look down. They recently dropped three fuzzy cuts from their upcoming releases on Tall Pat Records and Dumpster Tapes including the anthemic dirt rock take, “poppers” and the dizzying freakout, “shoot the baby.” (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: “Shoot the Baby”

f6BuaFTDuo Colin Croom and Lauren Whitacre released their debut album as Sister Crystals last summer. It’s a rangy LP, with stately chamber pop tracks rubbing elbows with more conventional alternative rock numbers. Some songs sound like Beach House but with more jammy freakouts, while others stick closer to Breeders-esque 90s rock. Whitacre handles most of the vocal duties but Croom steps to the mic occasionally and delivers an understated croon akin to what Lockett Pundt does in Deerhunter and Lotus Plaza. Fans of the aforementioned acts would do well to pick up their self-titled LP and look out for them this year. (Dan Henshaw) (Photo by Nathan Bobinchak)
Must hear: “My Ghost”

reddogboyzReal Chicago noise rock hasn’t died off yet thanks to locals Fake Limbs and last year’s “Band To Watch,” Running. Thankfully, we can add another to that list: Basic Cable. Their abruptly paced, grimy guitars, synths and manic vocals aren’t foreign to the band’s members – bassist Luca Cimarusti and drummer Ryan Duggan were in Loose Dudes while Matthew Hord also plays bass and sings in Running. Their I’m Good to Drive LP is out now on Permanent Records, but for a taste, look no further than their bandcamp for the best Bleach-era B-side Nirvana never wrote in “Blonde Ambition,” and the Stooges-esque punk attack of “I Drink Every Day.” (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: “Blonde Ambition”

543195_383463751701545_2133327413_nOshwa make off kilter, arty folk and pop that crackles with a communal energy and experimental spirit. Their songs command attention with their intricacies and unpredictability. Check out the breakdowns on standout “Old Man Skies” from their Chamomile Crush LP. Time signatures change without warning and melodies come in fits as vocalist Alicia Walter twists her unorthodox voice all around the chaos. Fans of Dirty Projectors and tUnE-yArDs should find plenty to love. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Old Man Skies”

1238171_510906185658670_565163505_nThe Lemons’ stripped-down ’60s flower pop lands somewhere between quirky fun and damn near cultish. Their debut, Hello, We’re The Lemons, which was recently reissued on Gnar Tapes, marries lo-fi vibes with candy-coated pop for some sweet but laid-back fun. Cuts like “Chubby Checker” and “Jelly Bean” are a time warp to the height of tie-dye and acid trips of the most pleasurable nature. (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: “Chubby Checker”

1072642_565658976806662_150007590_oKSRA (pronounced kay-sir-ah) is twenty-nine year old singer/songwriter Rachel Thomas. Thomas makes sample- heavy pop featuring vocal acrobatics that recall mainstream divas like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, shot through with the more indie pop and rock sensibilities of Grimes, Regina Spektor, and Bat For Lashes. Single “Radio Waves” from her Petra EP features choruses that go soaring in impressive vocal displays and a backing beat that makes it less surprising to hear that Talib Kweli is set to appear on her forthcoming new single. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Radio Waves”

534977_273548752724353_1907254616_nPunk trio Meat Wave dole out bratty, defiant assaults of sound in impressively economical bursts. Highlight “15 Years” explodes out of your speakers and doesn’t let up, and the eight other tracks found on their self-titled cassette are no different. The riffs are tight but still possess a very “punk” rambunctiousness that’s as exciting as it is infectious. It’s not hard at all to imagine these songs absolutely killing at one of Chicago’s many small venues. Lead vocalist Chris Sutter’s nasally -their word, but it fits – delivery pins the songs down, focusing the energy in a very pointed way that lends the proceedings a specific potency. Don’t miss them live if you can help it. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “15 Years”

1486085_556391414439791_585942760_oMtvghosts’ latest, Dystopio, packs quite the punch with its tightly packaged synths and guitars. There’s a bit of The Strokes and Deerhoof in the band’s clever approach to the dream pop genre, which finds them trimming the fat for accessibility’s sake. Slick guitars and popgun rhythms propel “Chariot Riding Proletariat,” while futuristic hooks flood “Did They Tell You I’m Loco?” Notes and Bolts will be dropping Dystopio as a 10″ later this year as well. (Richard Giraldi) (Photo by Khori Wilson)
Must hear: “Chariot Riding Proletariat”

886057_488371494553738_1727492725_o“About as fast as we can…” That’s all you’ll find under the description on local trio Vamos’ bandcamp, and maybe that’s all you need to know. They may not have a ton of music to their name – just six songs available on their page – but they don’t waste a second of any of them, packing each song with high energy riffs and raucous vocals. It’s the kind of garage rock that was all the rage circa 2001, but Vamos’ infectious, swaggering bravado makes a strong case for these kind of tunes in 2014. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Demon”

tumblr_myufozDnS71rldzvko3_1280Fans of the now-disbanded Chicago outfit Tyler Jon Tyler, and dynamic frontwoman Rebecca Flores should promptly turn their attention to Flores’ new group, Negative Scanner. A bit more striking than JTJ, Negative Scanner might remind some of last year’s buzz band Savages because of Flores’ commanding delivery and the scratchy post-punk guitars. They don’t have much music online save for the fiery demo of “Fan Vs. Wild” on the official Negative Scanner tumblr, but their debut LP should drop later this year. (Richard Giraldi) (Photo by Gene from Slurp’s Up!)
Must hear: “Fan Vs. Wild”

1484116_647058885335939_1722152560_nAbsolutely Not’s Donnie Moore shows off his darker, moodier side in The Iceberg, which works as a nice foil to his primary outfit’s spastic dance rock. The Iceberg has some other familiar faces helping out as well – Madison Moore of Absolutely Not, Sam Westerling of Swimsuit Addition, and Clayton DeMuth of Sybris. Their Eye Vybe Records cassette, Wood Street Fire, scratches all the right places with cuts like the eerie groover, “Milky,” and the synth-heavy closing hymn, “So Alone.” (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: “Milky”

1403372_601667966548847_1323041437_oLe Tour make ultra lo-fi noise rock that generally shambles along unhurriedly, with little concern for clarity or having all players totally on the beat. Their Christian Guilt cassette has the clangorous sound of something recorded inside of a warehouse. The record is full of hiss and crackle, with songs that false start and stop, and it’s possessed of a generally ramshackle and tossed together feel. The locked-in groove that some tracks find recalls early Liars material, while the languid experimentalism and distantly cooed falsettos brings to mind rougher Atlas Sound cuts. Fans of cavernous post-punk vibes and the polish-averse should check them out now while keeping an eye out for their in-progress debut LP. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “You’re Living Above Me”

1536434_579714022108219_1816421649_nPartway through “gloria, G-U-I-T-A-R!,” – the nearly eight- minute track that served as this writer’s introduction to She Speaks In Tongues – singer Kate McCandless makes what can only be a Janis Joplin reference, repeating the titular phrase from one of Pearl‘s defining moments over and over as the song descends into noisy chaos. The nod feels natural, and not just because JJ makes an appearance in the “influences” section of SSIT’s Facebook. The spirit of female empowerment passed down from pioneers like Joplin, Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell and Laurie Anderson – all present and accounted for – seems alive in McCandless’ unabashedly strong and occasionally sultry delivery. 2014 will see SSIT release their first album, so keep an eye out. Also they have a song built around the theme from “Reading Rainbow,” so you should probably go listen to that. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “gloria, G-U-I-T-A-R “

1149224_394535740647050_88871694_oTruth be told, 2013 was a hell of a year for Oozing Wound. The Chicago metal act signed to Thrill Jockey, released Retrash, one of my favorite records from 2013, and were even hilariously reviewed in The New Yorker. But this thunderous trio aren’t done yet. They’ve been hinting at big news on their Facebook in the past few weeks, including a new record and maybe even a tour or something (?) with Black Pus – a side project of Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale – later this year. (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: The Third Turd – Side A

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