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February 2013 Archives

Crystal Bowersox on her new album -- and Broadway

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Crystal Bowersox has taken a great deal of influence from singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco. She even uses her lyrics to hammer home philosophical points.

"I keep quoting Ani DiFranco: 'If you're not getting happier as you get older / then you're f---ing up,'" Bowersox says. "It's true. I feel like at this point in my life, I've noticed the serendipitous ways things have been for me. I've worked very hard, but there's also been lots of luck. Every moment has lead to this moment I'm in now, all the bad and all the good. In my darkest days, I did not really believe it was going to get better. But it did, and now I'm on the good side of things, and I'm kind of surprised that it all worked out."

She's explaining the thinking behind the title of her new album, "All That for This," out March 26. It's a superb set -- wonderfully written, beautifully performed and expertly produced -- and a refreshing follow-up to her post-"Idol" major-label debut, 2010's "Farmer's Daughter."

Blues great Charlie Musselwhite on Ben Harper collab

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Ben Harper (left) leans on blues harmonica great Charlie Musselwhite
for a new collaborative project.

This is why Charlie Musselwhite is such a good blues songwriter. He actually talks like this.
He's describing how he feels about his newest project -- "Get Up," an album and resulting tour with roots-rocker Ben Harper -- and, brother, he's feeling good.

"It was more than fun," Musselwhite says, on the phone from his home in Sonoma County, Calif. "It was like some other word I don't know yet. It was so rewarding and satisfying -- it was like going to church, it felt so good."

He chuckles and thinks a moment. "Well, it might be how some people feel. I don't go to church myself. Maybe I'm always in church wherever I am."

Morrissey reschedules Chicago show: March 23

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After two frustrating postponements due to illness -- first his mom's, then his own -- Morrissey has rescheduled his Chicago concert date. The new show (cross your fingers) will be March 23 at the Chicago Theatre.

Review: Johnny Marr, 'The Messenger'

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Johnny Marr, "The Messenger" (Sire/ADA) 3<br />
and a half stars

marrmessenger.jpgNot that long ago, I made myself a mix of highlights from Johnny Marr's post-Smiths career. Highlights, mind you, because in the decades since establishing himself as one of the greatest guitarists of my generation Marr has been a perpetual motion machine, constantly on the move from one project to the next, hardly lighting with one collaborator for more than one album. After the Smiths, he wrote with the Pretenders, worked with Kirsty MacColl and joined The The. He played for the Pet Shop Boys and formed Electronic with New Order's Bernard Sumner. He recorded with Billy Bragg and Talking Heads, wrote with Bryan Ferry and Paul McCartney, guested with Bananarama and Oasis. By this century, he was working with Bert Jansch and Neil Finn. Then he joined Modest Mouse. Then he joined the Cribs. It was one eclectic mix.

Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z announce joint tour

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No surprise, their Grammy performance together was a well-placed advertisement for their joint summer tour. Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z today announced dates together as the Legends of the Summer Tour.

Just 12 shows were announced today, including July 22 at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Adele's hopes for best song Oscar shouldn't 'Skyfall'

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At least Seth MacFarlane knows the score. The host of this Sunday's Oscars is also nominated for one -- for best original song, "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" (music by Walter Murphy, lyrics by MacFarlane) from the comedy "Ted" --but he has not prepared an acceptance speech.

"You know, I know we're going to lose to Adele," he said.

True dat, to use an expression as old as Adele's rule of the music charts.

Tea Leaf Green and the line between jam and jazz

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press_photo1.jpgTea Leaf Green is a band of San Francisco prog-rockers -- wait, come back, it's not quite that bad -- who've been steeping for more than a decade in a blend of jam-band ramble-craft and breezy pop melody. They've also consistently upped their game from album to album, shed show to shed show. As jam bands go, they're one of the ones you want to see.

Billboard chart, Nielsen ratings do the 'Harlem Shake'

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Here's a sentence I thought I'd only type as I saw the fourth horseman ride by: The "Harlem Shake" has reached No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart.

Effective this week, the Billboard Hot 100 chart now incorporates YouTube views in the data used to determine chart position.

Passion Pit success has them breathing rare air

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Michael Angelakos of Passion Pit greets an ecstatic crowd last August at Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park. (Sun-Times file)

It's impressive that Passion Pit -- a Cambridge, Mass., indie-rock band with two albums to its credit -- recently headlined at Madison Square Garden, the 18,000-seat venue Billy Joel once hailed as "the iconic, holy temple of rock and roll." Even more impressive is that they were offered their pick of sizable and legendary New York City venues.

"We had a choice between Radio City [Music Hall], the new Barclays Center [in Brooklyn] and the Garden," says Ian Hultquist, Passion Pit's keyboard player and guitarist. "We decided to go with the most prestigious one."

10 years after E2 nightclub tragedy: What's changed?

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Last month, a musician set off a firework inside a crowded club in Santa Maria, Brazil. The resulting fire spread "in seconds," and 238 people -- mostly teenagers -- were killed.

Just last weekend, Chicago police and firefighters responded to a South Side nightclub, the 22Thirty9, and shut down a party attended by about 140 people. The club was rated to hold 80.

Both incidents were uncomfortable reminders of two tragic anniversaries this week in clubland.

On Feb. 17, 2003, security guards at Chicago's E2 nightclub used pepper spray to break up a fight. The over-capacity crowd of about 1,500 people panicked, rushing toward a single exit, and the resulting stampede injured dozens and left 21 trampled to death in a narrow stairwell.

Lady Gaga injury requires surgery; tour canceled

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What began as four canceled shows to heal some inflamed joints has now turned into the cancellation of the remainder of Lady Gaga's Born This Way Ball Tour.

On Tuesday, concert promoter Live Nation announced that both Lady Gaga performances scheduled this week, Feb. 13 and 14 at the United Center, as well as two other regional dates were to be postponed.

Wednesday evening, Live Nation announced the cancellation of the remaining 21 dates scheduled through March 20.

Rev. Jackson settles dispute over Lil Wayne lyrics

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idiotwayne.JPGUPDATED: Lil Wayne's musical name-dropping of Civil Rights icon Emmett Till landed him in the middle of a Chicago controversy Wednesday afternoon, one which drew in the Rev. Jesse Jackson to get it resolved.

Earlier this week, "Karate Chop," a new track by Atlanta rapper Future, began circulating online. The song features a third verse rapped by Lil Wayne (aka Dwayne Michael Carter Jr.), which begins:

Pop a lot of pain pills
'Bout to put rims on my skateboard wheels
Beat that p---y up like Emmett Till

Kishi Bashi finds himself on creative solo adventure

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From the unconventional and creative sounds on his debut solo album, last year's "151a," few might guess that Kishi Bashi emerged from the realm of commercial jingles.

"It was a long time ago, and it was very unsatisfying," says Kaoru Ishibashi, aka Kishi Bashi, 37, of his ad-agency past. "At an agency, the word would go out that someone was looking for a spot, so everybody would frantically demo their own music. Everybody had their specialized thing. I was the indie-rock guy. The deadlines are usually 48 hours. You can't come up with great music in 48 hours, and they don't want great. I did a United Airlines commercial. Maybe a Cialis commercial."

Review: Bryan Ferry Orchestra, 'The Jazz Age'

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The Bryan Ferry Orchestra,"The Jazz Age" (BMG/Chrysalis) 3<br />
and a half stars

BFjazz.jpgThere's a bit of "30 Rock" Jack Donaghy in Bryan Ferry. Both men are shrewd titans of their industry. Both are up for an occasionally crazy or foolishly romantic whim. If you asked Ferry why he seems to be always wearing a tuxedo, I suspect his response would be similar to Donaghy's: "It's after 6. What am I, a farmer?" (If not in those precise words.)

It's that happy chutzpah that makes a gimmick like this album successful -- a success that's extra-extraordinary given that this is essentially a Bryan Ferry album without Bryan Ferry.

Grammys spread the love; Black Keys eke out on top

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Dan Auerbach performs with the Black Keys at Sunday night's Grammy Awards. Auerbach, as a producer and part of the Black Keys, took home the most trophies with four. (Getty Images)

Last year's Grammys came pre-loaded with plenty of drama, from the return of Adele after some precarious throat surgery to the death of Whitney Houston just a few days before the ceremony. This year, the only pre-show drama was around a prim CBS memo advising attendees to keep themselves covered on the red carpet.

The ceremony Sunday night didn't exactly relieve the drama drought.

As the Recording Academy transitions from a boomer-centric, Steely Dan-awarding demographic into a younger, playlist-shuffling voting body, the Grammy ceremonies are becoming as diverse and catholic as the nominations. Sunday's performances during the marathon three-and-a-half-hour show, broadcast on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, spanned a dozen genres but lacked a big talking point or an overall stunning moment.

Grammys 2013 live!

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Follow along here for tweets, photos, videos and commentary throughout tonight's Grammy Awards ...

Guessing as we go into the 2013 Grammys

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DJ Al Walser arrives to the 55th annual Grammy Awards pre-telecast ceremony
on Sunday afternoon -- dressed as if he were nominated for an MTV
VMA moonman instead.
(Getty Images)

Last year's Grammys came pre-loaded with drama and an obvious winner. Not only was Adele certain to cart home a wheelbarrow full of trophies for her smash album "21," but in the weeks leading up to the big night she'd had surgery on those impressive vocal cords and all ears were on her when she performed. She killed, and she took home six Grammys.

This year -- not so much. Little drama, no front-runners.

Six artists top the 2013 nominees with six nominations each: Chicago rapper Kanye West, hip-hop titan Jay-Z, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (five for the duo, plus a producer nod for Auerbach), British folk-rock phenoms Mumford & Sons, and the night's two biggest success stories: R&B singer Frank Ocean and pop-rock band fun.

That means we're likely in for some surprises when the ceremony kicks off at 7 tonight on CBS.

Giant steps are what they take: Walk the Moon

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Nicholas Petricca was born in 1987. Which was way too late.

The pop band Petricca formed, Walk the Moon, plays bright, upbeat dance-rock straight out of Bow Wow Wow's rhythmic wheelhouse. At Lollapalooza 2011, they covered Bowie's "Let's Dance," -- and their latest EP, "Tightrope," includes a live track of the band stomping through Talking Heads' "Burning Down the House." The band name is derived from the buoyant 1979 Police single "Walking on the Moon."

Petricca himself (second from left, above) has been seen holding -- and playing -- a keytar.

Single, shows from reunited rebooted Fall Out Boy

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Death before disco: Fall Out Boy returns to action by burning albums
at the site of the original Comiskey Park.

Well, we probably can't call this a reunion, since technically they never broke up. We weren't completely sure it was just a hiatus, either. Regardless, after three years off the radar, Chicago's Fall Out Boy is back.

In fact, they've got a new single on iTunes today -- and they're playing a show in town tonight.

Beyoncé scores with Hail Mary of a halftime show

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A few days ago, the Bravo cable channel polled viewers, asking who they thought would win Sunday's Super Bowl in New Orleans. The winner with 51 percent: Beyoncé.

They were right.

In just under 12 minutes, Ms. Knowles dished a show-stopper that was every second Sasha Fierce. Blowing through eight songs in a typical halftime-hits medley, Beyonce threw her hips and whipped her hair and -- so it seems -- actually sang.

Reviews: Jim James, Hayden

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Jim James, "Regions of Light and Sound of God" (ATO) 2<br />
Hayden, "Us Alone" (Arts & Crafts) 4<br />

yimyamesyawn.jpgThe last My Morning Jacket album, "Circuital," suffered from an intermittent power outage, and singer-guitarist Jim James' solo debut doesn't exactly amp things up. Blessed with an alluring pinched, plaintive voice, James keeps things remarkably quiet and laid-back throughout most of the odd, meandering and occasionally prayerful "Regions of Light and Sound of God." Unlike "Circuital" and much of the My Morning Jacket catalog, though, the restless "Regions" never settles, never leans back on any laurels. It's a bit out there, and stays out there.

Review: '12-12-12' sans Kanye, Sirvana

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Various Artists, "12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief" (Columbia) 1<br />
and a halfstars -- If you want to continue raising money for the worthy cause of East Coast hurricane relief, why would you release a CD of the star-studded concert without the two most interesting moments during said concert? Even if you couldn't see Kanye West in his kilt, his 13-song medley was one of the few moments during the Dec. 12 concert in New York City with a pulse that didn't require monitoring.

Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival remains the premier annual showcase of cutting-edge music in town, in the country and now, with the Paris gigs, overseas.

But now they've just gone cray cray.

The festival announced headliners this morning via Twitter for its 2013 edition: Belle & Sebastian, Bjork and -- @#$%! -- R. Kelly.

Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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