Listening to the first minute of opening track “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” on Kate Bush’s 1985 album Hounds of Love, it’s easy to write the entire album off as your typical pop creation of the decade. The first track has the sound that any of us with parents who grew up in the 80s may be familiar with due to their constant replaying of the sounds of their youth. If that’s what you’re looking for, keep listening, as you’ve found an album that not only perfectly encases the sound of the decade but also is part of the foundation for many of the pop albums that came after it. Even if you’re not too into synth pop from the 80s, I encourage you to give this album a chance—if not for the chilling vocals and before-its-time experimentation with background vocals and production, then simply because this is one of the landmark albums that defined what pop would be for years after.
As mentioned before, this intro track is the classic 80s pop song, so much so that it sounds like it could have easily been a part of the original soundtrack of “The Breakfast Club.” In fact, for what it’s worth, the album was actually released the same year as the movie, which I would say speaks to just how iconic 80s pop is. The sound is so easily recognizable, for better or for worse, it can sometimes lead to easily confusing one song from the era with another. However, I would argue that there are a couple of small but striking differences in this song that make it stand out. The buildup at the beginning is slow yet stunning, making it impossible not to recognize the song within moments. And if it isn’t the buildup that lights up the bulb of recognition in your mind, it’s definitely the clear, strong vocals of Kate Bush. It’s somewhere between the pure vocals of a pop singer and the grungy, throaty vocals of a rock singer. This could have a lot to do with the fact that her early music was more so teenage rock, and this song, along with a couple others on the album, was mostly meant to appeal to the popular sound at the time. However, as much as the song played along with the norms of the typical pop sound in the 80s, it’s impossible not to hear the rock influences in the background. These influences are clear in everything from the riveting electric guitar riffs to the grunge in her voice as she hits key points in the iconic chorus. As much as it is easy to label this song just another 80s pop number, the fact that it’s still considered one of her top songs and is one of the most successful songs to come out of the era can’t be ignored, and that alone should warrant respect from any listener.
Yet another boppy, lively song from her album, I would say that there are two important elements to take in when listening to this song specifically: the amazing drums and the simply astonishing lyrics. The drums in this song are the basis for an iconic beat, one that may be stuck in your head for hours on end (I can vouch for this since the beat was stuck in my head for at least two hours while I was prepping for this album review). However, what’s not to admire about a song that’s so catchy it literally lingers in your mind for hours? If anything, it’s a success on the part of the producers and the singer, being able to create such a song, and I credit the beat of the drums for this. The lyrics, on the other hand, are both clever and completely straightforward. I always tend to admire love songs from the 80s, as there was nothing really to try to decipher about them. “I never know what’s good for me,” “I’ve always been a coward,” “Help me darling, help me please.” Lines like these speak clearly as to what the singer means and what the listener is going to identify with. But in all honesty, while the lyrics in this song are quite clear, if you listen extremely closely you can hear quite a few of the lines that might just fly over your head. For instance, at the beginning, a male’s voice says, “It’s in the trees. It’s coming.” Admittedly, the first couple of times I heard this song I truly just assumed that it was included at the start simply because it sounded cool. But after those few listens, I eventually linked up that entrance line with the title and a couple of other lines in the song. In essence, this song is speaking on the fact that love is wild and uncontrollable, like hounds, and there’s no way of escaping it. It’s wild, it’s free, and it’s relentless. As cheesy as it might seem to be, I can’t help but find it wonderful, and I feel like it’s been a while since we’ve had such cheesy but relatable meanings to songs.
Let me just tell you, if you have earphones in, the intro to this song is definitely going to give you a chill. Not because it’s particularly touching, but rather because the song starts with whispered instructions for you to wake up. I think this song is a nice follow up to the last two. Track six puts you to sleep, track seven induces a nightmare, and this track brings you out of that nightmare–albeit it wakes you up somewhat abruptly. It sounds like a mix of a cult meeting recording and a cheesy zombie flick track. That’s not to say it’s bad, because I definitely think that it’s one of the more experimental tracks on the album. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard before, and definitely not similar to any of the other tracks on Hounds of Love. In a way it reminds me of “Thriller” by Michael Jackson in the sense that it has a Halloween-y feeling to it. This is one of the few songs on the album that I could see myself listening to by itself and actually including in one of my playlists. It’s a song that could stand well on its own and is one of my favorites from this entire album. It isn’t as modern as some of the others, and definitely has an 80s sound to it because of the guitar riff in the background, but I think all of the elements come together to create something truly special.
This is by far the longest song on the album, going just over six minutes. I’ve always found myself to be conflicted on songs that are like this. On one hand, some songs simply do have messages that deserve that much time and are wonderfully executed, and it feels as if the song passes by way too quickly rather than dragging on. On the other hand, there have been times in which the song seems to just be unnecessarily long, and so what was meant to be artistic and meaningful simply comes off as a bore. In my opinion this song is fits into the former category. I never felt as if it was dragging on, and I hung onto every second of it. It’s gorgeous yet mysterious at the same time. Bush’s vocals shine through in this song more than any other. I was hesitant at first to choose a favorite song on this album, but I’m going to say that this song is most likely my favorite. It’s rare for the longest song on an album to be one of my favorites, but this song holds a sound that simply stands out from the others on the album. Admittedly there isn’t a whole lot of singing on this song in comparison to the others, but the period that Bush is singing is simply breathtaking–not to mention I’m a sucker for extremely mystical songs, and this song embodies that sound completely. I can understand that this may not be the song for everyone. There’s something relaxing to it, and it’s sort of unexpected as the next to last song on the album. Compared to the last song on the track, it seems to be the odd one out, but sometimes the odd one out is the best one.
In all, I think Hounds of Love is one of those albums that has some songs that just aren’t attractive to a particular listener. However, considering how well it was created, Bush’s amazing vocals, and just how big of a mark it left in pop and the music industry as a whole, it’s impossible to write this album off as anything but a work of art. Would I give this album a listen again? For sure. I think there are several songs on here that I find amazing, in every meaning of the word. It’s not my favorite album of all time, but I think it’s the type of album that everyone should give a try at least once, as it warrants that level of respect.
In preparation for their Chicago show tomorrow at Metro, I got the chance to talk to Echosmith about their inspirations, upcoming album and how their music has changed since “Cool Kids.”
This interview has been edited and condensed for publication.
ES: As siblings, did you always grow up playing music together? How did the idea of starting
a band come to fruition?
ECHOSMITH: Growing up, we all picked up our instruments fairly early, and at a different times played with at least one of our siblings , but surprisingly, it took us a few years to finally all play together as a band. Our dad got us our first show around 11 years ago. Someone was looking for a young band to play a benefit concert, and our dad volunteered us.
ES: What’s the hardest part of being in a band as siblings? The best part?
ECHOSMITH: The hardest part of being in a band with family is the same as the best part. We know each other SO well, which can obviously cause a whole lot of fun, and sometimes some frustration. Siblings always know just the buttons to push to make you upset, but thankfully that doesn’t happen too much anymore.
ES: Who were your biggest influences starting out? Who are your biggest influences now?
ECHOSMITH: Starting out Coldplay and The Killers were some of our biggest modern influencers. We also grew up on music from artists like The Smiths, Peter Gabriel, the Police, and especially U2.
ES: What is the origin of the name “Echosmith”?
ECHOSMITH: Echosmith was a word we created to mean “shaping sounds”, just as a blacksmith shapes metals. It also helped that the website was available!
ES: You hit it big with “Cool Kids” back in 2013. Do you feel the pressure to live up to that success with your new music? How are you tackling that?
ECHOSMITH: We haven’t necessarily felt the pressure to make something as “big” as cool kids in a negative sense. We’ve mainly just tried to focus on making music that accurately represents who we are, and the way we see the world. Cool Kids communicated our character quite well, so we are always trying to continue in that mode.
ES: How have you changed as a band since your first album?
ECHOSMITH: A big change was our brother and guitar player Jamie leaving the band to be at home with his new kid. We suddenly had to figure out how to make music as a trio. We also have grown quite a bit since we wrote the first record. We were all young teenagers at the time (I think graham the youngest was 13/14), and now it’s been about five years, and we’ve all developed a lot. So we’ve worked hard to try and represent that in our new music.
ES: Now being in the music industry for half a decade, what’s the most important lesson
ECHOSMITH: I would say the most important thing I’ve learned since really working in the music industry is that songs are incredibly important. The messages contained within can mean a whole lot to people, and it’s important to keep that in mind. Just about everyone on the planet loves music, and it’s cool to see it truly act as a universal language, especially with our fans around the world.
ES: Your new single, “Over My Head,” talks of being in a situation that seems impossible to
fix. What advice would you offer to listeners struggling with such a situation?
ECHOSMITH: I would first suggest taking some time alone to analyze the situation, and to prepare to begin the conversation with your loved one. It’s important to tell the people you care about how you feel, and to also desire for good to come out of it.
ES: Is there a new album in the works? If so, what can we expect from it?
ECHOSMITH: There is! And we are actually in the final stages of it now. I would expect a more progressed version of Echosmith. Many of the songs from our EP we released last year will be on the record, but we also have some new songs that we are really excited about. We tried our best to be honest and true in our lyrics, and make music that is interesting and melodic. So I hope the world enjoys it!
My Friday night started with an Uber trip to a part of Chicago I’ve never been to before: the West Loop. Immediately, I could tell that I would love it. The industrial vibe of the neighborhood was only enhanced by Bottom Lounge’s exposed brick walls and neon signs. The venue was mainly populated with hip 20-somethings, drinking PBR and reminiscing about growing up listening to The Strokes. Their rhythm guitarist, Albert Hammond Jr., started pursuing solo endeavors in 2006, but has only in recent years come into his own with headlining tours.
I got the chance to see Albert three years ago on tour for his album Momentary Masters, a show that lined up pretty much perfectly with my decision to start a music blog of my own. His show was one of the first that I reviewed, so I was shocked when he direct messaged me on Instagram a few days later, telling me that his mom had showed him my review and that he loved it. The short conversation that we had pretty much made my life and became my singular claim to fame. Looking back, it is what convinced me that I could make music journalism my career. So, naturally, when I heard that Albert would be making a stop in Chicago when touring his new album, Francis Trouble, I knew I had to go and that I had to review it.
Five-piece band The Marias were the opener, who self-describe themselves as “psychedelic soul.” I had never listened to their music, but had heard a lot of hype surrounding their recently released EP, Superclean Vol. 1. Let me just say, that hype was well-deserved. Frontwoman Maria delivered sugary-sweet vocals along with fellow vocalist and drummer Josh Conway. Their bass-driven tracks and jazzy influences delivered a sensual vibe reminiscent of Prince. However, there was also a hint of that “dream pop” sound that is so popular right now – think Triathalon or Clairo. Songs were sung in both English and Spanish, with Maria’s natural rhythm and stage presence drawing much of the audience to sway in response. Highlights included “I Don’t Know You” and “Only In My Dreams.” Although The Marias only formed in late 2016, they definitely had their share of superfans in the crowd and I immediately added them to my Spotify reservoir.
When Albert Hammond Jr. stepped onstage, I was surprised to see that he had an entirely new and seemingly younger band. However, it was immediately evident within the first song, “Caught By My Shadow” off of Momentary Masters, that they were an extremely talented and cohesive front. Including Albert’s signature white Fender, there were three guitars that worked together effortlessly to deliver the fast-paced and guitar heavy sound of Albert’s music. That explosive first song was followed up by the softer “Holiday” off of 2006’s Yours To Keep, which quickly became an audience sing-along. Wearing his signature white jeans and a yellow bomber jacket, Albert was quick to note that we were the loudest crowd of the tour so far – which is something I do not doubt, as everyone seemed to know the words to every song and proceeded to shout them.
The rest of the set consisted of almost every song off of Francis Trouble, with some older songs mixed in such as “Side Boob,” “St. Justice” and “101.” There’s no doubt that Albert has a captivating performance style. He often held his microphone like a cigarette, in between two fingers, and used his bandmates’ amps as platforms to jump off of. The set ended with “In Transit,” his song off of Yours To Keep that was famously used in The Strokes’ tour documentary of the same name. It seemed that the entire crowd joined together in excitement to sing and dance, and then immediately demanded an encore once the last few chords rang out. The band wasted no time coming back out, but Albert instead entered the crowd for “Postal Blowfish”, a Guided By Voices cover that appeared on Yours To Keep.
As one can imagine, Albert being in the crowd got pretty rowdy, but he seemed to be having the time of his life. After getting back on stage, Albert played a few more songs off of Francis Trouble as well as my personal favorite, “Blue Skies” from Yours To Keep, a soft ballad that he didn’t play during his last tour. That was enough to make my night, but it didn’t stop there. After the show, I got the opportunity to meet Albert, who somehow remembered me from my review three years ago. I usually hate to meet musicians that I love because I’m scared that I’ll be disappointed by how they act in real life, but Albert was extremely gracious, meeting and taking pictures with everyone who wanted to and carrying out real conversations.
There’s no doubt that Albert Hammond Jr. is a rockstar – but he’s also more than that. It was clear that he had made a positive impact on countless people in the audience, myself included, but it was also evident that he is in this business for the right reasons. I hope that never changes.
Philadelphia-bred but Chicago-based rockers Panda Riot seem to have planted themselves firmly in Chi-town’s local music scene. At Saturday’s vinyl release party for their fourth album, “Infinity Maps,” one thing was clear: Panda Riot has built a vibrant community around their dreamy, shoegaze-y sound.
Two opening acts meant that Panda Riot didn’t step on Beat Kitchen’s stage until midnight, but their performances made it hard to complain. First up was Sleepwalk, a local band consisting of four angry-looking men dressed all in black. Rocking a bald head and septum piercing, the lead singer delivered soft but impressive vocals backed up by driving drums and distorted guitars, resulting in what sounded like an American Football-Pixies hybrid. Next was Silver Liz, who’s set got off to a rocky start due to issues with sound levels, but effectively redeemed themselves by the last three songs. Guitarist Matt Wagner played fervently without making their sound too harsh, and once singer Carrie Wagner hit her stride, one couldn’t help but compare them to Beach House.
Once Panda Riot took the stage, there was no doubt that they were a cohesive front, which makes sense as guitarist Brian Cook and singer Rebecca Scott have been making music together since 2005. This specific show was to celebrate the release of the first vinyl pressing of their new album Infinity Maps, which came out in 2017. After a few songs, Scott explained that the pressing company had actually pressed the vinyls incorrectly and were printing new ones as soon as possible. This meant that anyone who bought a vinyl at the show would be mailed a new one as well, spurring excited shouts of “BOGO” from the audience.
Although the flaw with the vinyl pressing was a definite bummer, it didn’t seem to stop Panda Riot from celebrating. In fact, by the end of the show, they had half the crowd in a dancing daze. A new addition to their usual set was a light show projected onto a hanging white sheet, which only enhanced their ethereal sound. However, this didn’t mean the band lacked energy. Bass player Cory Osborne made sure this was never a question by diving into the crowd and playing there for several songs, slowing his pace only to kiss his girlfriend. Fervent rounds of applause accompanied the end of every song, and the overall intimate vibe of the show made me feel like everyone there was in the same group of friends (and maybe they were).
Panda Riot played much of Infinity Maps, duly impressing the crowd with their performance. Stand out songs included “Helios/June 20th,” “Ghosting,” “Double Dream” and “Arrows”. The band proved to play the strongest when in unity in terms of chord progressions, and were very solid all around in their musicality. Although Panda Riot is still very much local, this new album could be what causes them to make it big in the states (they’ve already cultivated fan bases in Japan and Taiwan). From this vinyl release show, it appears that they have what it takes.
“Fuck you means I love you at a Brockhampton concert,” shouted Kevin Abstract, “so everyone say fuck you.” The audience responded “FUCK YOU” with resounding energy. “Now everyone say I’m gay.” Everyone I could see shouted “I’M GAY” at the top of their lungs. Kevin stepped back into the flashing lights with the rest of Brockhampton and they played “JELLO” — one of the groups many recent hits. The building shook as the sea of people bounced up and down.
Brockhampton, the self-proclaimed “boy band” out of Texas, formed in 2015 after meeting on an internet forum for Kanye West fans. They released a mixtape in 2016 and their first three albums throughout the latter half of 2017. The trilogy (entitled Saturation I, II and III, respectively) lived up to its name and saturated the internet with a new type of hip-hop. The 14 person band features vocalists, producers, videographers, web developers and managers. The concert was just as non-traditional as their sound, capturing an angst in the age of the internet attitude that resonates with many millennials.
The first surprise of the night was the lack of an opener–Brockhampton decided they could warm up the audience on their own. The show began with a masked Ameer Vann walking out on stage wearing an orange jumpsuit over a white t-shirt. The crowd screamed and lurched forward as Kevin Abstract, Merlyn Wood, Joba, Dom Mclennon and Matt Champion walked out after him; they all wore the same orange jumpsuits and white t-shirts.
After the first song Kevin Abstract asked the crowd to clear a large circle and, when the beat dropped, “to go fucking crazy.” They played “STAR” and the moshing did not disappoint; within 45 seconds I was lying on the ground on top of two other people, with one person on top of me. The fans were nice enough and I was quickly pulled out of the pile of bodies, but the mayhem had just begun.
Despite the 48 songs the boy band has released in the last eights months, it felt like every audience member knew every lyric that was sung. Brockhampton encouraged the singalong, frequently cutting the music and letting the crowd scream the choruses.
Near the end of the show Kevin Abstract sat down and said there was no more music because he had something very serious to talk about, “Brockhampton is breaking up.” The crowd booed and Kevin laughed. “Now Matt Champion wants to tell you a joke,” clearly caught off guard Matt Champion told a strange improvised story about Dom wetting the bed and Merlyn drinking it. Most people did not laugh, but I was impressed with the spontaneity of the moment.
Next Bearface, the member responsible for some of the slower jams on the Saturation albums, came out and serenaded the audience with his disembodied voice and airy guitar. He started with “SUMMER”–the last song from Saturation II. The solo was a welcome break from the controlled bouncing, pushing and chaos that dominated the rest of the show.
After Bearface walked off, the other five jumpsuited vocalists came back on and played two more songs. Before leaving, Kevin Abstract asked the audience to boo them off stage. After a long sustained boo, I left drenched in sweat but smiling.
In the past six months Brockhampton has swept the internet with their new take on hip-hop. In their “Love Your Parents Tour” they are showing fans that their creative spirit is burning brighter than ever. If the boy band continues in their pursuit of stardom and innovation, Brockhampton will be a name to watch closely.
Schubas Tavern on a cold Thursday night became the perfect site for Shame’s Chicago stop on their latest USA tour. Schubas Tavern was giving off a distinctly church-hall atmosphere, with a few colored lights projected above the drum set and red lights illuminating the band. The intricate carved wooden arch, which framed the small stage, completed the venue’s transformation from iconic back-of-a-bar stage to post-punk church. Shame is a five-piece South London indie-rock band made up of: Eddie Green, Charlie Forbes, Josh Finerty, Sean Coyle-Smith and Charlie Steen. The band members are barely out of their teens, but have toured the US multiple times, and come to this show fresh from a set of Australian festival dates. At Schubas Tavern Shame treated us to new album, which takes the name of British Sunday morning staple Songs of Praise. However, instead of choir boys singing heavenly hymns, we were faced with the angsty post-punk of five lad’s lamenting the current state of British society.
The congregation consisted mainly of an older crowd with glasses and beards in tow, but there were also a few younger members of the flock. Warmed up by openers The Gotobeds, Pittsburgh indie-rockers, the crowd was ready to do some serious head-nodding. By the time Shame made their way to the stage the house was full. Responding to a crowd member’s half-hearted cheer, Shame gave a few joking screams of their own, marking the start of the band’s attempt to bring the crowd out of their comfort zone.
The preacher was front man Charlie Steen, who took to the stage, cowboy hat in tow, to ramp up the applause. Shame started the sermon with the first song from their album Dust on Trail, a chord heavy opener with Steen singing in a low monotone, inviting the crowd to “walk with me,” before rising to a more hoarse shouting and climaxing with a guitar solo. The crowd dutifully nodded along.
The second hymn of the evening was “Concerte,” featuring shame’s characteristically catchy guitar riffs. With Steen removing the cowboy hat and reaching forward to the crowd, lightly patting their heads, blessing them in turn. Steen and bassist Josh Finerty started their signature call and response vocal lines, adding a depth and variety to the their performance. With their hit single “One Rizla” we were able, for the first time, to really hear the lyrics. The vocals could generally have done with a higher volume. As Steen’s ironic and gritty lyrics were lost slightly on “Tasteless”, a quick paced dissection of the music industry and mass consumption.
As we headed into the second half of the album, the band started to get more into their groove bring the high energy performance which has come to be expected from a shame show. During the ring guitar chords of “Tasteless” Steen held his arms open to the crowd, welcoming them to come come closer. During “Friction” we saw the resurrection of Christ but a shirtless and nipple rubbing one. Steen started pacing the stage encouraging the crowd to not be afraid.
The band then departed from the album line up, skipping ahead to the end track “Angie,” a slower break from the playful anger of “Tasteless” and “Friction.” “Angie” an ode to a young girls suicide, with distinct Oasis guitar and sing-along chorus vibes. On the penultimate song “Lampoon,” shame ramped up the energy, and the crowd responded by forming a small but dedicated mosh pit. During their final song “Gold Hole,” a tale of lecherous love, Steen attempted to walk on the crowd, while bassist Finerty fully let loose falling on to his back and bouncing back up with surprising agility.
Green kept pace throughout the whole show with constant head thrashing, bent over while playing some fantastic riffs. Smith kept the songs glued together with a driven rhythm guitar. Drummer Forbes never missed a beat, providing the driving force of the sermon. With the album a short and snappy 39 minutes, the set was over in less than an hour. It would have been great to hear a few of shame’s older songs, such as “Visa Vulture,” which has a great ironical croning tone.
Leaving through the sweaty crowd of Schubas to smoke cigarettes and talk more with fans, Shame had successfully converted a crowd of folded-arm head-nodders to a congregation with hands held high in praise. Songs of Praise is certainly an album to be reckoned with, and Shame a band to keep a close eye on.
Arlie is an indie-rock band hailing from Nashville, where the members met at Vanderbilt University. Here, we had the chance to talk to Nate, Adam, and Tyler about the band’s image, their music, and their future. Arlie is playing Schubas Tavern in Chicago this Saturday, March 10, where they will be performing their unreleased material. Their singles “Didya Think,” “Big Fat Mouth,” and “blackboard.edu” are currently streaming on Spotify, SoundCloud, and Apple Music.
This transcript has been modified from its original version.
Responses are taken from all 3 band members.
Q: How about we start with how you picked the name “Arlie”?
A: Sam Boyette. He’s a cinematographer, and really good at what he does. He made a short film long, long ago, in Arlieville. It was called “Arlie” and it was terrible, completely awful, it just sucked; so we thought we wanted to make a band that was as bad as that short film, and music that makes you feel for the future of humanity.
Adam and I [Nate] met because we were working on the soundtrack for this short film. When we were trying to think of a band name, we thought of all these names, but they were taken or they had all these other things associated with them…we also wanted to name it something childish, like boyish, and then we realized that that’s how we met, making this movie–why don’t we just call it Arlie? It was just an immediate unanimous agreement.
Q: You currently only have 3 singles out, can you give us a hint as to how the concert tomorrow will play out?
A: There’s gonna be a lot of songs that people haven’t heard. There will be the three that are out on the interwebs, and then we’ll play all the others. It’s just bangers all the way through.
Q: How would you describe your sound for those who aren’t familiar with your band?
A: Fantastic, raw, almond rock. It’s kind of like pistachio. The music is nostalgic for an older time in rock ‘n’ roll when the entire band would sing together, and you would have these fun vocal arrangements that involved everybody in the group. That, I would say, is one of the follies that a lot of people will notice the most when they see us perform–everybody is contributing. The majority of the band sings.
At the same time, there’s a lot more modern elements of various styles of pop and rock. You might catch a little bit of nostalgia sometimes, but you might hear things that are more new and experimental. So it’s a hodgepodge, a quilt of music. We all bring our various influences and backgrounds into the mix.
Q: How has your sound shifted since y’all were at Vanderbilt and transitioned from the local to national scene?
A: I [Nate] feel like I’ve always written music more in response to the national scene than in response to a local scene. I think the national scene has certainly influenced my writing to an extent, just because you meet a lot of people that are really weirdly focused, and I think I’ve definitely picked up from that. I wouldn’t have become such a weird, focused writer if I hadn’t looked at national where that’s what everybody’s really all about. But as far as sonically, I’ve always made a conscious effort to not sound like a national project.
Q: So your Facebook bio. Can you describe the meaning of it and its significance?
A: It is kind of a bio about other band bios…you see a million band bios, and they’re all really annoying and braggy and self important. We did not want to write one of those bios and everyone was telling us we needed to.
In a way, it did feel more truthful, at least as far as the core of what Arlie is about, than trying to put our life events into a constructed narrative that would be, by nature, manipulated and artificial. This way it would stick to the core of what Arlie is about, and hopefully be entertaining.
Q: How does humor play into your music or your brand?
A: I’ve [Nate] spent a lot of time around song writers that were really serious and write serious music, and for a while I was like, “Oh man, I have to do that. My music isn’t serious enough.” I would try really hard to write a lot of serious songs (not that I don’t write serious songs), but when I thought about the music I grew up liking, there was always a little bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, and this balance of humor versus seriousness.
I think humor keeps you honest, sometimes, as a creative person. You also need to step back and realize that you don’t need to take yourself too seriously all the time, because that gets old. Being able to do music that’s funny and powerful emotionally, that’s the ultimate goal, to be able to do both.
Q: Why do you guys brand yourselves as the #1 doctor-recommended band?
A: It’s one of those things that’s both serious and joking at the same time. The idea that music can be a cure for depression. I feel better when I’m playing music.
That’s one of those gratifying things, when you’re playing music and you get to see that it’s making somebody feel good or feel better about themselves, or they’ve had a shitty day and you get to make all that dust shake off. Music heals, music can do what doctors can do.
Q: What is the plan for the future of the band?
A: World domination. If we are making the best music we can make, we would hope that people would like it enough to come to our shows and allow us to continue to do it. If we got famous, we would want to use any influence that we had to enact good in the world, make the world a better place in some way. We’re gonna tour a lot and we’re gonna play our butts off and we’re gonna just keep making more music. I don’t see myself getting tired of that.
On Wednesday, Feb 14, Omar Apollo and The Slaps dazzled Schubas Tavern with their melodic falsettos and gritty guitar riffs.
First up was The Slaps, a Chicago based band. As I was later informed by the many Depaul hipsters in the room, The Slaps are based in Depaul and are well established in the local indie rock scene. Rand Kelly, Josh Resing, and Ramsey Bell Book entered the stage and they began with their song “See Her.” The crowd responded immediately, taking part in a collective headbob.
I was particularly intrigued with the drummer, who had a very eccentric air about him. He would occasionally laugh maniacally into the mic, but otherwise, he stuck to his drum set. It was almost as if he was in his own bubble, completely detached from the rest of the world. At one point, his drumstick flew out of his hand, but it didn’t faze him; he played on with the palm of his hand.
The lead singer’s guitar riffs were so impressive that they caused someone in the crowd to yell:
“My mans got magic fingers!”
And magic fingers did he have.
The Slaps certainly did not disappoint with their dreamy, indie surf set, but the anticipation for the headliner to take the stage was palpable. The crowd wanted Omar Apollo.
Finally, Omar Apollo took the stage causing the crowd to erupt in cheers, and the posse of girls behind me to shrilly yell “Te amo!” in his direction. At first, I scoffed at them, finding humor in their intensity and passion, but by the end of the night I shared their sentiments. His humble demeanor and soulful tenor made it impossible for the whole crowd not to become completely enamored with him.
The 19 year old Indiana based artist began his set with his song “Come Over,” and the ambience of Schubas Tavern shifted completely. The cool blue lights and fierce staccato of The Slaps were replaced with a soft pink hue and Omar Apollo’s devastatingly beautiful voice, which, might I say, was oh so appropriate for a Valentine’s Day performance.
It really started to feel like Valentine’s Day in the middle of his set. While Omar Apollo performed “Heart”, his bassist began handing out red roses to the crowd (Luckily I got one!). The many couples in the room pulled each other close and swayed gently to Omar Apollo’s gut wrenching testament to unrequited love.
The next song in Omar Apollo’s set was “Algo.” Earlier in the concert he had begun pausing for the crowd to sing along in very short intervals, almost as if he was unsure if the crowd was well acquainted with his music. But by this point, he relied almost completely on the crowd to complete the song. And they did. Terribly loudly. Not a single person skipped a lyric. As the scene unfolded, Omar Apollo’s face beamed with pure joy and amazement at how many devoted fans he had. It was a wholesome scene to watch. In fact, it was the second wholesome scene of the night. The first being Omar Apollo’s mom, who was coincidentally standing right next to me, handing her son a rose and telling him how much she loved him. She was perhaps the biggest fangirl in the crowd—it was amazing. She never strayed from reminding people around her, including me, that he was, indeed, her son.
As the night winded down, I found myself wishing that his setlist would stretch on. He thanked the crowd, and began to walk off stage. But I wasn’t ready for the night to end quite yet, and neither was the crowd. We all began to yell “Encore!” with enough fervor to bring Omar Apollo back on stage.
Omar Apollo smiled bashfully and ended the night with his latest single “ugotme.”
All in all, it was a fantastic concert. Omar Apollo’s exceptional performance and the intimacy of the venue made it the perfect way to spend Valentine’s day.
It’s always amazing to see the progression of an artist’s career, and, as an avid Omar Apollo fan, it was truly wonderful to witness his growth from SoundCloud artist to headlining a sold-out concert in Chicago.
Omar Apollo is definitely an up-and-coming artist you want to keep your eye on! Check out his music!
Few things can truly match the malleability of music. By shaping noise and sound we are able to create meanings out of chaos, harmony out of discord. In its energy we find everything from reasons to dance to reasons to live. The emotions put into its creation will somehow trigger the same chemical responses in the brain of the listener. All of this to say music is one powerful medium and musician/artist/poet/mc Noname is more than aware of this.
With songs consisting of bubbly beats overlaid with her poetic verses, her music not only deals with her own struggles but like most storytellers, with every word Noname looks to give substance to her listeners. A frequent collaborator with Chicago artists such as Chance the Rapper, she made her debut with her 2015 album Telefone. The album introduced Noname to the world and told stories of her own battles for success and happiness in the face of countless obstacles. Coming from a place of autobiography, Noname’s music serves as a how to when it comes to the sacrifices and dedication that are needed to demand ones own success.
On November 22 I was able to experience Noname’s energy first hand at Chicago’s Concord Music Hall for Red Bull’s ’30 Days in Chicago’ concert series. Supported by a full band her songs morphed on stage as she wove in out of new and old material. Her excitement to be back was obvious as she floated back and forth across the stage singing “Noname off the drugs/ Noname quit the weed/Telefone delight/Love is all I need” Two years removed from the release of her debut album Noname’s dedication to her music has seemed to grow even further Acting as a sort of lyrical motif, lines such as this were repeated throughout the concert. While the band would begin the instrumental to a new song, Noname interwove ideas and lyrics from new and old projects into one cohesive performance. This blending of new and old by Noname and her band allowed for ideas from her previous project to evolve with the new sound while rooting the performance in her Chicago roots. Now living in L.A., Noname’s transitioning from new material into old lyrical motifs went to show that the purpose of her new material has not strayed far from the ideas presented on Telefone. Instead these ideas and principles have simply evolved further in the California sunshine.
Preceding Noname, rappers Buddy and The Last Artful, Dodgr, set the stage for this Nonames joyous performance. While rapper Buddy was rarely caught in the same place as he danced on every possible surface of the stage, his vocals rarely missed a beat. With a cadence that cut through his bass heavy beats with ease, his songs touched on everything from his inability to stop shining to his one and only love, OG Kush.
The Last Artful, Dodgr armed with a mic, a red beanie, and two back up dancers, electrified the crowd as people continued to filter in. While neither artist had the support of a full band as did Noname, their charisma alone made up for this deficit in energy as Buddy at one point even dived off the stage to try inject some of his energy into a somewhat lackluster crowd. Whether it was through their own dancing or that of their back up dancers, both performers interjected a sense of celebration into the performance as the packed house cheered them on.
Though all three artist’s songs referred to things very personal, their desire to interact with the crowd showed the outward purpose of their performance. Noname in particular constantly worked to bring the huge crowd in front of her into her performance. Their passive listening was not enough as Noname persuaded the crowd to sing along whenever possible and take the messages to heart. While her songs mostly refer to her own struggles growing up and fighting to escape her circumstances, her desire to interact showed that her words are meant to teach and heal just as much as they are to describe. One of the first songs she performed, Reality Check, a song about facing her own doubts about her music ability when creating Telefone, Noname sang to the crowd, “Don’t fear the light/ That dwells deep within/ You are powerful/ Beyond what you imagine/ Just let your light glow” When Noname first walked on the stage I couldn’t help but notice the light that seemed to emanate from her presence. Full of joy yet tinted with a deep reality of sadness and truth, the wisdom of her words shined through the innocence of her voice. Obviously self aware of her own “glow”, Noname’s music looks to provide this same strength and validation to her fans that she herself has found within it.
For many, when the name Amine comes up, the first thing that comes to mind is his famed song, “Caroline” at least that was all I had known about him until just a couple of days before the concert in which I took the time to listen to all his music. Red Bull Sound Select brought Amine to Chicago as part of their large 30 Days in Chicago event. Amine isn’t the only big name being brought to town however, with artists like Daniel Caesar, Migos, and 6lack also making appearances on their respective days. By the end of the night though, I was baffled not only by Amine’s striking stage presence and command of the crowd, but also by just how well Red Bull had put together the concert.
The first of two opening acts was A2, a rapper whom I quickly realized came from Britain, not only based on his accent but also regarding how excited he was to be performing in Chicago for the very first time. While one might think that this newness of Chicago and the audience itself would warrant nervousness and even hesitance, A2 seemed to vibe with the energy right off the bat, constantly praising the audience’s energy. The crowd truly was energetic, with some even singing along as A2 performed songs like X2 (Dble) and Holograms. Even those who didn’t quite recognize his music found it easily to jump and cheer along, simply excited by the artist’s sheer energy. By the time A2 had wrapped up and gotten offstage, the crowd was well on it’s way to peak excitement.
The second and last opening act was Pell who instantly had the youthful crowd jumping around with their hands in the air. His entire aura simply screamed bold as he came out on stage wildly from the get go. Opting to give Obama a shout out, he called out the past president’s name quite a few times into the mic whilst the crowd either called out alongside him or simply was laughing at all that seemed to be taking place. It was nearly impossible to keep up with both him and the crowd as he bounced around on stage, performing hits like Chirpin’ that amplified the crowd’s excitement. However, nothing quite sent the crowd into a frenzy like the sudden, surprising appearance of Saba on stage as he and Pell performed a new song that has yet to drop. As the two performed together onstage, there was a moment of intensity in which the venue seemed to shake with excitement. In just that moment, if someone had told me that this was the peak moment of the show, I probably would have believed them as Saba’s sudden appearance and Pell’s performance definitely left the crowd cheering and dying for more.
The DJ was notably good at keeping the crowd’s energy up, playing hits like This Is How We Do It, Low, and Wild Thoughts. There was barely a lull between the opening acts and the hour or so before Amine’s performance, something of which had been a concern of mine when I saw the three-hour gap between the doors opening at 8pm and Amine’s expected performance at 11:20pm on the schedule. However, the concert flowed rather smoothly, and it wasn’t long until the DJ was hyping the crowd up with questions like, “Are you ready for Amine to come out?” and the moment his band stepped onto stage just before the performance, the crowd went wild.
By the time Amine came out, any thoughts of the night having hit the peak before then immediately flew out of my mind. He didn’t hesitate to take control of the stage space and the crowd, not only performing his own hit songs like Spice Girl, Hero, and eventually Caroline (which he did an amazing remix of, one that I definitely favored over the original as it highlighted his talent) but he also did his own covers of iconic songs like Scrub, Gold Digger, and Wannabe. He was very communicative with the audience, mentioning that he liked to boost the confidence of his crowds and starting a chant in which he would say, “You’re beautiful!” and the crowd would reply, “I know!”.
There were even plenty of times in which the stage coordinator would dim the lights too low for too long and Amine would demand that the lights come back on, as if not wanting to be disconnected from the crowd for even a moment. Towards the end of the performance, Amine pulled a man on stage to sign his famed pants to represent Chicago as the last act of his US tour, in which the man and the crowd went back and forth on what to sign, but eventually settled with “Obama 4 Ever” to represent the city.
It wasn’t long before the performance wrapped up, and Amine called it a night, only to come out suddenly once again for an encore, performing his hit song Caroline. By the end of the night, as Amine truly finished up onstage and bid the audience goodbye, the crowd was still buzzing for more, and seemed to be truly satisfied with the events of the night. As people shuffled out of the venue, there seemed to be a smile painted on the faces of everyone. The concert was a positive experience, from the extreme excitement of the crowd (that was probably the most hyped group of people I’d ever been around at a concert) and the talent of opening acts A2 and Pell, and the main act, Aminé.