15 Chicago Bands To Watch In 2015

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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. So, we thought we’d point out some local bands who we think you might want to keep your eye on in 2015. And isn’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)

1. NE-HI
10904470_436966126453927_6516324626343764576_oNe-Hi originally came together to score a film for a friend of the band. Fortunately for Chicago music fans, they decided to stick around and grace the city with some excellent songs. After releasing a string of quality singles in 2013, the band dropped their debut LP in March of last year, and it instantly garnered buzz both locally and nationally. The self-titled record is nine tracks of clean, jangly indie rock that’s as catchy as it is pleasant. Recently, the band indicated that they are working on new material, so keep an ear out for them in 2015. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Since I’ve Been Thinking”

10454338_10152466197303244_9084470000860982699_nLil Tits are abrasive, noisy and raw in all the right places, and the result is a punk-infused rage fest that will undoubtedly get you moving or moshing for that matter. Shades of influence from L-7 and Bikini Kill are obvious, but this trio manages to conjure up something far more sinister and unnerving. But don’t take our word for it. Just ask Pitchfork who ranked the band’s song “Peaking,” from their recent cassette 7 Year Bleed, as one of the best punk songs of 2014, and we’d absolutely have to agree. (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: “Peaking”

10679486_752047308203843_5842941508268217800_oI’m sure they’re already sick of hearing Pixies comparisons, but I can’t personally confirm if vocalist Joey Eichler is not, in fact, Frank Black. Fittingly the band’s most recent release is a live Halloween cover of Surfer Rosa, and unsurprisingly, it absolutely killed. With Eichler doing his thing, the rest of the band often can’t help but further the comparison instrumentally, but when Maureen Neer steps to the mic, her twangy delivery sets Soddy Daisy apart. Fans of unhinged indie rock will definitely want keep tabs on the band in 2015. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Take Me Down”

IMG_3696 We featured Melkbelly in our December interview, but it would be remiss to not have them on this list. The band’s noise-pop antics hang on this freakish intensity that nearly leaves the listener with anxiety over where the band’s music will go next. Moreso, Melkbelly’s chaotic, jagged guitar work has an air of freshness about it as it never quite reaches a bombastic heaviness, and instead often evolves into starkly melodic moments. In December, Melkbelly recording the dark and wild, “Hier Kommt Der Krampus,” but will be releasing a new 7″ sooner than later. (Richard Giraldi) (Photo by Justin Reid Tvedt)
Must hear: “Hier Kommt Der Krampus”

10384099_735489236523142_6062155907808243190_n Haki’s aggressive, no holds barred noise punk thrashes about while vocalist Kelsey Ashby hangs out in the maelstrom sounding unaffected by the chaos around her. It’s an arresting effect, and when Ashby elevates her volume or tone it’s doubly so. Haki make music to shake your fist – and really your whole body – to, and it’s incredibly cathartic at times. Try and not be affected by the vocal and instrumental bloodletting in which the band offer up a surprisingly diverse and experimental sound with elements of no wave and pure noise. The band dropped an excellent new EP, aptly titled Haki’s Big New E.P., at the beginning of the year that’s definitely worth a listen or three, but if you’re looking to get some aggression out, catch Haki live as soon as possible. (Dan Henshaw) (Photo by Lemon Grabé)
Must hear: “Shoot”

1276915_617054061651183_857693703_o What makes Baby Magic’s art-pop so damn engaging is lead vocalist Mary Beth Brennan’s bratty tone and delivery. Her punky wails and the band’s tight-knit, post-punk leanings make for a sound that’s all their own. Seriously, Baby Magic sound unlike any other band in Chicago, and that is undeniably their biggest strength. Their expletive-soaked song, “Ass Against These Hand,” gained popularity within Chicago’s underground rock scene in 2012, but the band returned in September of last year with a seven-song release titled Rent a Place in Hell that teeters between sexy and frightening. (Richard Giraldi) (Photo by C.B. Lindsey)
Must hear: “Rent a Place in Hell”

10273256_763418213680154_444954475767263739_o Those looking for something to dance to, look no further than Bring Your Ray Gun’s brand of catchy and confident dance rock in which the guitars are sharp and the synths are liberally applied. Dearly departed dance rock heroes The Rapture are an obvious comparison, and there are touches of Cut Copy present in their music as well. Their songs feature driving, high-energy tempos that envelope a live setting. The closing number to their self-titled EP, “Locked Out,” features the refrain “I can’t stop my feet from moving,” – which one could easily find oneself saying at a BYRG show. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “The Waitress”

tinkerbelles-ws-710On one of these lists years ago, I’m thinking 2011, I wrote up buzz-worthy, alternative rockers Gypsyblood because their debut, and unfortunately only, LP, Cold In The Guestway was so damn good. Unfortunately, Gypsyblood called it quits, but vocalist and guitar player Adam Mohundro didn’t. Mohundro now fronts a scuzzy bass and punched-up drum two piece called Tinkerbelles. Their sound takes the raucous vibe of Death From Above 1979 and adds a pop sheen for an approach that’s melodic while maintaining an unbridled energy, which, to my ears, still resembles the best parts of Gypsyblood. Their Fine Asses 7″ dropped last fall, but I’m ready for more right now. (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: “Rotten Tanx”

9. DEN
10659413_342917705869400_8830969120749314176_n Let’s examine the SoundCloud hashtags of this surprisingly versatile band, shall we? There’s the “cosmo-boogie” of “Spectrum Shock” a propulsive, scattershot track that showcases DEN at their most punk. “Worth the Burn” – tagged “thud & guts” – is a prime example of DEN in doom mode, featuring menacing vocals that move from husky muttering to a primal howl as the track progresses. I particularly enjoyed the “dead dog space rock” of “Laustinom” – a six minute instrumental that slinks along for several minutes, mostly drums and bass, before amping up a bit. It’s a patient, deliberate piece that at certain moments reminded me of the progressive doom of Pallbearer. Of course if that’s too slow for you, there’s always the “violent thud metal” of “Exhausted” which sees the band flip right back into death metal territory. Hardcore, punk, doom, drone: they all apply to an extent here, and fans of heavy, punishing music in general should absolutely seek out DEN. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Worth the Burn”

10869907_561828530615178_1119868961443812687_oThere might not have been a moment that caught me more off guard in 2014 than when I witnessed a Gnar Wave Rangers live set at the Mutiny in mid-December. Just fresh off a tour with Soddy Daisy, Gnar Wave Rangers were decked out in cowboy outfits and old west paraphernalia that looked like something donned by extras from Back To The Future III. But then the band took the stage and launched into a set of hauntingly psychedelic yet highly danceable indie rock tunes. That was something I was absolutely not prepared for, but came away from both shocked and awed. The band’s 2014 release, #GetNastyAndRich at times feels like flipping through a radio stations in the late ’80s as each track tends to adhere to a certain style (the glam of “Crazy 4 Ur Love,” Smiths-like indie pop of “There Is A Light,” or the reverb-punk of “Weather Blood). Just last month the band dropped a new single, “Gucci Water Balloons,” which is something different entirely. There’s no way to predict where this band will go next, but my body is ready. (Richard Giraldi)
Must hear: “Gucci Water Balloons”

10497344_928448823833492_8395041391787240903_oKangaroo’s catchy surf and indie rock is really elevated by vocalist Devon Press’ charming, tender voice, which makes their songs particularly inviting. Recalling the late, great, Girls, Kangaroo make love songs full of all the attendant joy and heartbreak. Their latest single on Bandcamp is “Get Down,” which talks of a crush that already has a boyfriend, prompting the arresting lyric “thank god we’ll all be dead soon.” It’s followed though by “but for now let’s all get down.” The push and pull between those two lines feels like the heart of what Kangaroo is doing. (Dan Henshaw) (Photo by Kevin Elens)
Must hear: “Get Down”

IMG_7567While still not old enough to play some rock clubs in the city, the band definitely carries themselves with the confidence of rock and roll veterans. And that confidence is definitely heard in their music, which is tight and nimble in all the right places. Late last year, we interviewed Yoko and the Oh No’s and debuted their LLP-exclusive single, “Drag,” which offers up crunchy garage guitars and drums while vocalist Max Goldstein’s warm and comforting croon leads the way. Those who like their rock with a little more rattle and soul should definitely tune into Yoko and the Oh No’s. (Richard Giraldi) (Photo by Photo by Justin Reid Tvedt)
Must hear: “Drag”

156087_368558406628124_4094413267227538409_nRat Hammer’s debut album Baby Carrots begins with a clip of Nancy Kerrigan’s famous pleas of “Why?” after having her knee clubbed with a police baton. Strangely enough, it’s a fitting introduction to the 15 tracks of violent hardcore madness that ensue. Baby Carrots is an intense listen that’s a whirlwind of noise while vocalist Johnny Wilson howls amidst the disorder. But the band have a sense of humor too as shown on Baby Carrots by the numerous comical vocal snippets sprinkled throughout, and an acapella rendition of a cigarette jingle at the end of their track “TV.” Their bandcamp page simply says “This is our debut album. We are dirty people,” which gives a pretty good idea of what you’re getting. But really, what would could you possibly want? (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Drip”

10600624_718712284833429_946507348667902885_nAnd the award for Best Song Titles goes to Evasive Backflip. With names like “Birdo Momma Gon’ Fuck You Up,” “Dwarves Be Mining,” and “Chewbacca Speed Metal,” the band announces themselves as guys that aren’t taking themselves too seriously. Luckily they have more than enough musical chops to back up the awesome track names. The most striking thing about their latest LP Boys on Boys on Boys on Boys on Boys on Boys (yeah) is the range the bands displays. At times they recall the jammy, post punk of early Liars, while “Forbidden Funk” flirts with the ramshackle trailer trash funk of Beck. The band runs a dizzying gamut of genres, and it’s as fascinating as it is impressive. Such an approach is thrilling, and it could’ve easily devolved into a mess, but Evasive Backflip pull it off with ease. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Chewbacca Speed Metal”

10635743_715899638496239_6835696793909389043_n“Think All Girl Summer Fun Band, Shonen Knife, the Vaselines, that sorta thing. We have a song called Bucket of Puke if that sweetens the deal for you.” – That’s Strawberry Jacuzzi in their own words from their Facebook page, and it gets the job done so well that I can’t help but use it here. Despite being relatively new – they formed barely a year ago – they’ve quickly become one of the hottest bands in the city, having received press from Pitchfork and the Tribune. To be fair, the founding members – Shannon Candy and Nikita Word – are veterans of the local scene. Candy’s is known for her work with local heroes The Peekaboos, and Word gained quick and substantial notoriety as part of the now defunct surf-rock act Summer Girlfriends. Now songwriting partners in crime, Candy and Word make songs about heartbreak quite fun and catchy. While Candy’s vocal delivery is bratty and fun, when Word takes over on the mic, she emits a more sarcastic Riot Girl tone. So, in essence, it’s the best of both worlds, and the result is punchy, catchy tunes that the rest of the band rounds out with appropriate exuberance. If you’re into “shouting, laughing, and outer space,” you’re into Strawberry Jacuzzi. (Dan Henshaw)
Must hear: “Love Is For Suckers”

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