Sunday, January 31, 2010

Live Review: Nouvelle Vague | Friday night, Saturday morning

photos courtesy of Robert Loerzel |

Nouvelle Vague @ Lincoln Hall | 01.29.10

Chicago's newest live venue, Lincoln Hall, is a sight to see. With it's hardwood floors, disco ball and initimate size, it's a beautiful addition to the city's nightlife. It's almost a shame then, that the minute Helena Noguerra and Karina Zeviani—the sexy International chanteuses of Nouvelle Vague—took to the stage that the venue receded from focus, all eyes now on our charismatic frontwomen.

At first I was surprised to hear that the band's appearance this weekend was a downsize from its last visit, when the group performed at Metro, but once into the opening bars of "So Lonely" (a Sting cover), the slow burning warmth of its twangy bossa lounge seemed a better fit here, in a cozier environment. It didn't hurt that my aggressive concert-going companions had weaseled us up to within five feet of the stage. All the better to see the Brazilian-born Zeviani and her Belgian-born, actress-turn-songstress counterpart Noguerra bounce, shimmy and shuffle through more than twenty songs—two encores?!—from the band's three album catalog. It was clear that the ladies were the center of attention, with Nouvelle Vague's brain trust, Marc Collins and Olivier Libaux, book ending the band at opposite ends of the stage.

There were too many highlights to keep track of, as the group ebbed and flowed from frantic and lively to undeniably chill. At one point, the melancholy duet of "God Save the Queen" saw Zeviani sat atop a monitor at the front of the stage with accompaniment from Collins' solo guitar. The morose first encore of "Bela Legosi's Dead," had Zeviani skulking out into the audience before collapsing in a heap on the dance-floor at the songs end. These moodier moments were contrasted with healthy doses of upbeat, like the '60s dance party version of the Dead Kennedy's "Too Drunk to Fuck" and the Brazilian skank of the Specials "Friday Night, Saturday Morning." Even the more countrified reinterpretations housed on the band's latest album were welcome, it's covers of "Master and Servant" (Depeche Mode) and "Road to Nowhere" (Talking Heads) chief among them.

Adding to the abundance of quirky covers, the energy from the leading ladies manifested itself in speaker climbing, shoe kicking, robot dancing, loving embraces, kazoo playing and endless head bobbing and jumping up and down. At points the duo's energy sidetracked them from the task at hand; they clearly messed up lyrics multiple times but each was shrugged off with classic French nonchalance. They clearly commanded the undivided attention of the crowd, especially the guys in attendance who whistled and hooted, calling out "legs for days" and "I'm in love" in response to Noguerra's impossibly hot cover of "Fallen in Love." I think it was at that point that my friend Hillary turned to me and whispered that even she wanted to take one of the lead singers home with her.

- Joshua P. Ferguson

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Article: La Roux | Big Red + Yes Giantess MP3

Killin’ them softly

La Roux fights its way to the top of the charts

By Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago Magazine | 01.28.10

TOC | La Roux

Does La Roux’s Elly Jackson come from a mainstream pop mold? With artists like Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga and Little Boots dominating the charts in Jackson’s native U.K.—she even shares a label with Gaga—it seems a fair question to put to her. All those acts have capitalized on the übertrendy electro-pop sound as well as the makeup, costumes and stage shows that go with it.

“I can see how you might think my image is manufactured because it’s a very pop image with the hair and stuff. I could see that, even if it’s not true,” says the outspoken 21-year-old who’s often pictured with a tidal wave of red hair splashing across her forehead (La Roux means red-haired one). “But what I can’t see is how you could listen to our record—actually listen to the lyrics and the sounds—and think it was manufactured.”

It’s true; one spin through La Roux’s self-titled debut album, and it’s impossible to mistake the duo’s mix of ’80s-inspired dance beats and heartfelt songwriting as anything but genuine.

Expanding on her point, Jackson describes meeting Lady Gaga. “She was asking me who I was going to work with on my next record, and I was like (a) we’re a duo and (b) we produce our own stuff. It just didn’t compute with her.” Even her friends ask similar questions. “Now that I’ve had a hit, I have to go work with Americans?” she asks with a sigh. “People think the only way to be successful is to go off and work with Timbaland or whoever.”

La Roux, which makes its Chicago debut at Lincoln Hall Monday 1, is the studio project of Jackson and Ben Langmaid. A strictly behind-the-scenes member (Jackson performs with a tour band), Langmaid had a string of successes in the mid-’90s and early ’00s as part of electronic duo Huff & Puff before meeting Jackson through a mutual acquaintance in 2006.

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La Roux plays Lincoln Hall in Chicago on Monday Feb 1 with opening sets from Boston quartet Yes Giantess and the lovely ladies of Moneypenny, who I had the pleasure of sitting down with for an in depth chat this summer. You can read about all that here: TOC | Moneypenny

We were lucky enough to get our hands on an upcoming single from Yes Giantess, entitled "The Ruins". If you've been feeling the moody indie electronic acts of artists like Delphic, Yeasayer or even Ellie Goulding (who we've featured on the show) than you'll love the melancholy synth-led electro of Yes Giantess. In fact, "The Ruins" is produced by Starsmith, one of the masterminds behind British chanteuse Golding.

Yes Giantess "The Ruins" - Sendspace download

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

DJ Mix: Mademoiselle Caro | Indie Chops

Mademoiselle Caro goes indie for Buzzin' Fly
new mix to promote upcoming album

Parisian electro talent Mademoiselle Caro and her "production soul mate" Frank Garcia spend most of their musical hours skirting the line between techno and rock, producing heady indie electronic jams that make for a perfect, lazy, winter afternoon listen. Not what you'd expect when you note that the duo is signed to the brilliant house label, Buzzin Fly. Then again, the label's frontman is none-other-than Everything But the Girl's Ben Watt. If you're going to run into an indie rock left turn from any house label, it makes sense that it would be his. If you need any more convincing of Watts' diverse and illustrious career, look no further: Up the Wattage.

To help whet whistles for the their upcoming album, Left, which is due out in April, Mlle Caro has blessed us with this blissfully mellow mix of pure indie nuggets that makes a subtle twist into deep house toward the end. We challenge you to listen to this and not want to download just about every song.


Monsters of Folk 'Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)'
Fleet Foxes 'Mykonos'
Young Marble Giants 'Eating Noddemix'
The xx 'VCR ' / Radiohead 'All I Need'
The Zombies 'Leave Me Be'
Echo & The Bunnymen 'Angels and Devils' ...
The Pixies 'Ana'
Day One 'I'm Doin' Fine'
David Bowie 'Speed of Light'
Wire 'The 15th'
Bush Tetras 'Can't Be Funky'
The Presets 'Girl and the Sea'
The Emperor Machine 'Repetition'
Tracey Thorn 'Grand Canyon' (Ada Remix)
Kalabrese 'Makelovedisco'

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Article: The Martinez Brothers | The Kids Do Stand a Chance

Youth movement

The Martinez Brothers are winning over house heads young and old and there’s no sitting still while doing it.

By Joshua P. Ferguson

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 01.21.10

TOC | Martinez Brothers

Sure, high schoolers are aware of DJ culture, but, too young to get into clubs, they have an image in their heads that’s been fine-tuned by MTV. Drum ’n’ bass, minimal, Italo? We’re willing to bet most kids would lump it all under “techno.” Unless they’re the Martinez Brothers. Christian and Steve Jr. Martinez each celebrated milestone birthdays recently. Christian, a high-school senior, turned 18, and Steve, who’s taking time off from Hunter College, can finally order a drink for himself.

Which is especially noteworthy because they’re two of the scene’s most promising DJs and have been rocking seminal house-music clubs—in their native New York and across the globe—since 2006. In advance of one of their much-lauded sets, happening at Spy Bar Friday 22, we phoned Steve at their home in Monroe, New York, just ahead of his mini tour of Germany. (Due to class obligations, Chris couldn’t join us—or the trip to Europe.)

The brothers’ induction to house music came courtesy of their father. A clubber in the ’80s and an elevator repairman by trade, Steve Sr., now 46, spent many a night at the Paradise Garage, helmed by famed DJ Larry Levan. His clubbing days died down when his wife first became pregnant; later, he imparted his glory days to his kids. “We would always kick it and listen to music,” Steve Jr. says. “Timmy Regisford used to play on the radio, so we would stay up till three in the morning listening to him—just me, Pops and my brother.”

Pops also encouraged his sons to deejay, buying them equipment, records and arranging their early gigs. “My dad threw a party on Sunday nights,” Steve Jr. says, “and I’d be in church on Sunday mornings thinking, Man, I can’t wait to play tonight!” All of this bewildered their classmates. “I would bring in my iPod and sort of force-feed them songs and they just weren’t getting it,” Steve says. “I remember one girl calling it porno music and I was just like, What?!”

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Album Review: Keb Darge + Paul Weller | Lost & Found 2

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | TOC: Keepin It Real

Various Artists


Compiled by Keb Darge and Paul Weller


soul \sõl\ adj + jump•blues \jəmp-blüz \ n + retro \re-trõ\adj

For DJs who are as much historians as they are floor fillers, tracing club music to its roots is an obsession. For jocks of this ilk, the catalog of BBE Records, known for its reissues, is like a wet dream. With the label’s latest, London duo Keb Darge and Paul Weller praise new batches of noteworthy dusty grooves.

Darge almost single-handedly spearheaded the Northern soul resurgence in the U.K., unearthing rare U.S. funk, soul and R&B since the early ’70s. For his latest in the Lost & Found series, the Scottish DJ is joined by Paul Weller, frontman for the Jam and a cornerstone of the mod scene—and a rock star who boasts an enviable soul collection. Both 51, the pair found kindred spirits in each other, joining forces for Darge’s Lost & Found parties at London’s Madame JoJo’s.

Following the first edition’s rockabilly and jump blues, the attention turns to R&B and early soul. Darge and Weller’s mission is clear: to prove the worth of lesser-known talent stretching beyond the familiar voices of Motown. Hearing the aching soul of “You Don’t Love Me” from the Epitome of Sound or the yearning melancholy of “Come on Back” from the Brothers of Soul, you’d never know you weren’t listening to the Philly soul of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes or the Detroit doo-wop of the Temptations.

When not discovering new artists, Darge and Weller uncover obscure B-sides from names we know, like Bobby “Blue” Bland, whose “Honey Child” has him sounding like a male version of Nina Simone, or the Tijuana Brass soul of “Wear It on Your Face” by Chicagoans the Dells.

It might be hard to imagine the masses stomping and swinging to soul music on a Saturday night at Crescendo, but Darge and Weller’s parties often swell to upwards of 500 people. This collection shows why.

Joshua P. Ferguson

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Album Review: Lindstrøm & Christabelle | Real Life Is No Cool

Originally published on the the Time Out Chicago blog: TOC | Lindstrøm & Christabelle

Lindstrøm & Christabelle



Ital•o \i-tal-õ\ adj + dis•co \dis-ko \ n + Pop \päp\n

Even before people started throwing around the term “nudisco,” lanky Norwegian super producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm was declared the undisputed king of the sound, which actually encompasses as much Italo, boogie and ‘80s electro as it does disco. Wanting to break from his jazzy house productions as Slow Supreme, but lacking a label willing to release his new discoid nuggets, Lindstrøm launched his own, Feedelity, in 2003 debuting with his single “Music (In My Mind).” It was his first collaboration with a wily young vocalist, Solale.

Now, seven years later that partnership has finally come to fruition with Real Life is No Cool, the duo’s full-length effort, with Solale now using her first name Christabelle. What’s so special about this album is that between their start early last decade and now, we’ve watched Lindstrøm’s productions evolve well beyond where they started but haven’t strayed so far that it doesn’t feel like he’s coming full circle with this latest.

His debut solo album from last year, Where You Go I Go Too let go of the disco dance tone that first turned us on to Lindstrøm. In its stead was proggy electronica of epic proportions. We still loved the record—but it’s not exactly fodder for a dance floor. Now with Real Life, Lindstrøm has re-embraced his poppier sensibility with shorter—much shorter—productions showcasing the arpeggiated synth lines, druggy midtempo italo-disco beats we fondly remember and sultry song writing from Christabelle. At only three weeks into the New Year, we have to roll our eyes at the number of bloggers already proclaiming it to be one of the best records of the year, but we must also admit that it’s damn good.

Much of the album reminds us of stateside disco phenom Glass Candy. This is not to say that Lindstrøm is cashing in on the popular indie disco outfit. Rather, there are ample comparisons between the two. Both are fronted by women whose charm lies in their sexed up and strong, freeform presence. And there’s no doubt that Glass Candy’s Johnny Jewel and Lindstrøm would both name check Moroder as a crucial influence. Ultimately, even if Lindstrøm did let Glass Candy persuade his move back toward a pop style, we’re glad for it. It’s this side of his sound that gets us moving.

The steady slo-mo thump of “Lovesick” has our shoulders bobbing early on as Christabelle asks “Can you call it a sound / can you feel the beat / can you listen to it / can you feel my fate?” If this is love sickness, we hope it always feels this good. A consistent theme in the sound and lyrics, the brooding dissonance of the duo’s cover of Vangelis’ Italo classic “Let it Happen” sets the tone for the rest of the album. Enticing us to “come and take a ride on the wheel of life,” its syncopated chug and soaring melodies lift us up out of our frigid winter surroundings without pushing us into a complete lala land.

Throughout you can sense the more challenging work that was driving Lindstrøm on Where You Go, as in the edgy pulse of “So Much Fun,” but here, in a pop framework, its infinitely more dance worthy. This comes to a head on “Baby Can’t Stop,” without a doubt the brightest song on the album. While everyone else is going ape shit for Aeroplane’s remix—and we’re massive Aeroplane fans—we prefer the ‘80s brass-fueled boogie of the original. It’s pure pop gold.

Even the dramatic mood swing of “Never Say Never” is a welcome addition to the album. A downright chaotic number with the beat literally running in reverse, it reminds us that dance music doesn’t have to be all sugar and nice. Lindstrøm may have made his poppiest album yet, but that hasn’t stopped him from challenging our ears.

- Joshua P. Ferguson


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