Archive by Author

What happened to music in 2012

28 Dec

2012 had a lot of great music (as well as a lot that made me want to cut off my ears), but the music industry itself also underwent some changes. Here are three of the trends music saw in 2012.

The one man (or woman) band
These days  it’s all about the one-and-two-man (or woman, or woman-and-man) bands. No more are the massive groups featuring drums and backup singers and bassists and guitars and a few other funky instruments. It’s all about an acoustic guitar and melancholy melody.

I understand why it happened. With record companies fronting less money for tours, it’s nearly impossible to take a band on the road and make a name for yourself. With today’s recording technology and predominance of social media, it’s incredibly easy to make music and then promote it as a solo artist.

And, in all fairness, I love many of these one-person acts. My last two posts – Peter Bradley Adams and Dave Baxter – are both solo artists I can’t get enough of. My music library is full of similar musicians. But there are days I pine for, oh, say, the 11-member  Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. They’ve got energy and a sound that just can’t be matched by a solo artist sitting on stage all by their lonesome.

Streaming is struggling
I listen to Pandora about 42.5 hours per week (8.5 hours at work x 5 days per week), and, in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered: why would anyone pay for this site when the free version is totally awesome?

Apparently it’s a fair question. According to NPR, streaming websites are hurting for money, and desperately. Spotify has never made money; Pandora, the other biggest streaming site, has had the occasional profitable quarter but then goes right back into the red.

Maybe this will be the trend that finally gets us paying for streaming – when every music site goes bankrupt, the gasp of horror from society will finally cause us to cough up the money. That, or YouTube will basically take over the world.

Find your (vinyl) roots
This might seem obvious, considering the blog, but it’s also an important trend. While more and more people are streaming their music, more and more are simultaneously purchasing vinyl as well. Streaming is great for the workplace and downloading music is great for IPods, but when you’re sitting down and listening to music instead of using it as background noise, vinyl is becoming the way to go (again).

In the words of one musician I spoke with recently: “A great way to get your band out there is to put some songs on vinyl and go sell it to record stores. They’ll buy it without even listening – that’s how high the demand for vinyl is right now.”


Peter Bradley Adams: If you didn’t go, you missed out

18 Dec

As of three months ago, Peter Bradley Adams is a proud homeowner. Oh, and he once bailed himself out of jail in Calhoun County, Georgia.

Saturday night, a mere $12 got me into Schuba’s Tavern to see Peter Bradley Adams, a melancholy indie/folk singer and songwriter who occasionally borders on country. I’ve been a fan for a while, so much of the show was familiar – but it was a familiar that was better than anything I expected. In person, Adams plays with an intensity that draws you in before you realize what’s happening.

Whether strumming old favorites, new songs, or using a guitar to play things written for piano, Adams put on a show that was at times humorous (he was unapologetic if he forgot the words to his own songs) and that sometimes left me aching with nostalgia for…something. And with so many songwriters obsessed with love and only love, it was refreshing to discover Adams’ songs are obsessed with something else: weather.

Opening for Adams was Chicago-native Haroula Rose. Awkwardly endearing, her lyrics reflected interests all over the map (“I have this whole sociological theory about why people in Los Angeles get plastic surgery,”) although her songs sometimes blurred together in the similarity of melodies.

The highlight of the show, however, was the two songs Adams and Rose sang together. Their voices blended so well it sent chills down my spine.

If you missed Adams while he was in Chicago, just make sure you don’t repeat the mistake next time.

Oh, and can I just say what a great venue Schuba’s makes? The back room, with its wooden paneling, dark lighting, and isolation from the bar gave a true tavern feel that made it easy to connect with the performers on stage.

(…right, the Calhoun County thing. After being pulled over for a broken taillight, Adams got hauled off to jail when it turned out his license was suspended. He convinced the clerk to drive him to a motel and “stayed there for two days until I convinced an ex-girlfriend to drive down from Nashville and pick me up.” In court, the judge asked him what he did for a living.

“I write songs in Nashville,” Adams said.

The judge looked him straight in the eye and said, “I used to write songs in Nashville.”

All charges were dropped.)

See him at: No concert dates currently posted, but expect a new CD around late January.

Dave Baxter’s “Let it Go,” free EP download

15 Dec

Recently, I’ve been kind of (ok, totally) obsessed with Dave Baxter’s single, “Whispers.” One of those rainy-day, stays-with-you-for-hours songs, the video also tells a great story while reminding you just how gorgeous New Zealand is.

Luckily for my obsession, Dave Baxter is offering his EP, “Let it Go,” as a free download this Sunday at 4 p.m New Zealand time (that’d be 9 p.m. for you Central Time folk).

Be sure to clear your schedule – and, in the meantime, check out “Whispers” below.

EDIT (16 Dec, 9:30 p.m.): …guys, the download was worth it.

Free December shows

8 Dec

Already broke from Christmas shopping? Never fear – Chicago has plenty of free music to offer. Spice up your winter with some of these shows, all at no charge. Better yet, go to them all.

December 9, 12 p.m.
Schuba’s (3159 N. Southport)
No, not the one you’ve heard on YouTube. This Birdy is a Chicago-based,  acoustic/folk quartet with powerful vocals and haunting harmonies. Its four members, who released their newest album only last month, are become a staple of the local music scene and are not to be missed.

Columbia College bands
December 11, 7 p.m.
Reggie’s (2105 South State Street
They’re not famous yet, but if they ever make it big, you can say you saw them when. A night of free music from local Columbia College bands at one of Chicago’s best venues for live groups.

Sunday Night Jazz Party
Every Sunday, 5-8 p.m.
Buddy Guy’s Legends
Three hours, free jazz, weekly. Need I say anything more?

Next Door Chi
Throughout December
659 W Diversey Parkway
A free community space (coffee shop included), on weekends Next Door Chi transforms itself into a casual concert venue featuring local musicians.  December’s shows include classical Indian violin by Nistha Raj (Dec 28) and Chicago artists Jenny B & Jay Langston (Dec 30).

Chota Madre & Pachacamak Folk Dance
January 23, 8:30 p.m.
Old Town School of Folk Music
If world music is your thing, Chota Madre is not to be missed. Their Bomba style – a blending of European, Ecuadoran, and African rhythms – is infectious dance music.

Know of other free shows in the area? Leave us a comment!

Blueneck presents their “Epilogue”

7 Dec

“Without a doubt it’s a “headphones” album,” Blueneck writes of their newest work, “Epilogue.” It’s true, but don’t be surprised when the first few notes throw you out of your chair. The group’s fourth album, “Epilogue” features haunting, melancholy songs that pack a powerful emotional punch. At times reminiscent of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, at others Explosions in the Sky, Blueneck still manages to create a work with an overall feel completely their own.

The album, which is all-instrumental, is full of ups and downs, drawing the listener in with high-intensity surges of sound followed by quieter, reflective sections. It’s a contrast that makes for thirty minutes of intense emotion. This is not a CD to play in the background. This is a CD you sit down and listen to.

On their blog (a great read in and of itself), Blueneck explained they were trying new concepts, almost an experiment, in the making of “Epilogue.” That’s all too evident at times, with an overabundance of ideas that leaves the album struggling to achieve a unified feel. After listening from beginning to end, I was left strangely dissatisfied, as if the album had never quite figured out how to reach a climax.

Individually, however, each song shines. Those experiments that made that made it difficult to achieve one theme result in unique and complex tracks, giving the ear something new to latch on to with each listen. “Apogee” builds a melody around a single piano note repeated over and over for a lifting-and-falling feeling, while “Carina” concludes the album with an echoing quietness.

“Epilogue,” while leaving something to be desired, is still a great listen in its own right – and what is left most desired, perhaps, is for Bluneck to speed up the release of their fifth album.

See them live: Sadly, Blueneck won’t be touring until the release of their fourth album (expect late 2013), but their website does offer free Christmas music.


Released 19 October 2012

  1. Symbiosis – Part 2
  2. (Eta Carinae)
  3. Colonization – Incident 2
  4. Apogee
  5. Symbiosis – Part 1
  6. Suppression
  7. Colonization – Incident 1
  8. Carina