Faronheit | A Chicago Centric Music Blog

The hottest music from Chicago & beyond

Show Preview: Natalie Prass + Stella Donnelly at Lincoln Hall [9/19]


One of the primary purposes of this site is to expose you to new and rising artists from around the globe, which is why I feel just a little bit terrible for not bringing Stella Donnelly to your attention sooner. Donnelly’s debut EP Thrush Metal was released to critical acclaim in the spring of 2017 and even won the inaugural Levis Music Prize, which is awarded to emerging Australian artists poised for success on an international level. Recent winners have included Alex Lahey, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, and Hatchie, all of whom have been featured in some capacity on this site in the past year. But for whatever reason, Donnelly has been a bit of a blind spot here on the site and to a degree in the U.S. Thankfully Secretly Canadian reissued Thrush Metal this past June for American audiences, and she’s now on tour with Natalie Prass that includes a stop at Lincoln Hall on Wednesday, September 19th. More details on that below.

You may be curious as to what Stella Donnelly is all about and why she’s been attracting attention. The short answer is her razor sharp lyrics and ability to craft a memorable hook. Take her EP opener “Mechanical Bull” as an example. From a purely instrumental perspective it’s a gentle, acoustic folk song, but her words tell an entirely different story as she rips into the sexist and overly aggressive guys who have harassed her over the years. “I’ll be your darling, tits, legs, honey, sweet pea,” she says, listing off some of the catcalls men have said to her. “But I’m a fucking arsehole if you ask me,” she immediately cuts back. Even more powerful is the memorable chorus of “I need to be alone / You’ve been at my throat,” where her vocal inflection goes from calm and measured at the start of the song to frustrated and angry by the end. Powerful stuff.

Equally powerful is “Boys Will Be Boys,” which addresses rape culture and how women are often blamed or feel guilty when they are sexually assaulted. “Why was she all alone, wearing her shirt that low? / They said ‘Boys will be boys,’ deaf to the word ‘no’,” Donnelly mourns in the chorus. There’s a personal side to this song as well, as she directly addresses a man responsible for raping one of her friends and vows to “never let you [him] rest.” That line may read like a threat, but the eerily restrained way she sings it, with all the gentleness of an acoustic lullaby, turns it into something truly terrifying.

The remainder of Thrush Metal focuses on the destructive power of toxic relationships, from the spread of negativity and carelessness (“Mean to Me”) to the confusion and stifled growth caused by a lack of communication (“Grey”) to the regret and heartache that results from two strong personalities trying and failing to make things work (“A Poem”). When they’re all put together it might seem sad and depressing on the surface, but the actual listening experience is rich, rewarding, and unforgettable. The dark subject matter is inventively paired with beautiful melodies and addictive hooks that draw you in, make you feel seen, then offer comfort and strength. These songs are worth your time and effort to seek out, and they’re what make Stella Donnelly a force of musical nature worth paying attention to.

So yeah, Donnelly is opening for Natalie Prass at Lincoln Hall, who has her own amazingly great music to play as well. Prass’s 2015 self-titled debut helped establish her as an immensely talented artist with a sound that balanced baroque pop and soul into songs that were as catchy as they were gorgeous. There’s an incredible sweetness and optimism that seeps through her voice as buoyant melodies swell up around it, even as she tackles tough topics about heartbreak and misunderstandings in relationships. Her new record The Future and the Past shifts things in a bit of a different direction, paring back some of the strings from her debut and focusing instead on funky grooves provided by the bass guitar and synth. You can dance to more of these songs, but they’re also a bit darker in their overall subject matter.

In some ways the record is a response to the Trump administration, though it’s more about the issues than the President himself. For example, “Sisters” is all about gender solidarity in the face of a wage gap, bad relationships, and generally being regarded by society as “less than” men. “Ain’t Nobody” goes to bat for reproductive rights, while “Ship Goes Down” addresses the shock of watching your country head down an unexpected and negative path. But there’s some fun stuff on the record too, like the super catchy love song “Short Court Style” and the hopeful “we’re in this together” vibes of “Hot for the Mountain”. Overall it’s been heartening to watch Prass grow as an artist and songwriter, and I can’t recommend her records enough. Wednesday night at Lincoln Hall promises to be something special, so come on out Chicago!

Natalie Prass / Stella Donnelly
Buy Tickets
Wednesday, September 19th
8PM / $15 (advance), $17 (doors) / 18+

Show Review: Car Seat Headrest [Riviera Theatre; Chicago; 9/7/18]


There’s something different about Will Toledo these days. It’s not so much a look as it is a feeling. He seems freer, happier, and more energized on stage than he ever has before – or at least compared to the couple of other times I’ve seen Car Seat Headrest perform. And while there are any number of reasons why this might be the case, my sneaking suspicion has to do with Naked Giants. Specifically, their presence as openers and additional members of Car Seat Headrest has shifted dynamics in a very exciting direction.

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Show Preview: Amen Dunes at Lincoln Hall [8/21]


What’s most fascinating to me about Damon McMahon’s work as Amen Dunes is how it’s evolved over time. His 2009 record DIA provided an introduction to the project that was a little similar to Bon Iver’s origin story in that he recorded the songs on his own while locked away in a cabin. But the music of Amen Dunes was much more obtuse and experimental in comparison to Bon Iver’s, with a psychedelic and occasionally aggressive edge that pushed it into the territory of bands like Spacemen 3, Robyn Hitchcock, and The Velvet Underground. A couple of years later, he’d pull together an actual band to help fill out and sharpen his sound while further evoking classic influences.

Each new Amen Dunes release has also gotten bigger and more accessible than the one before, and with the expanding palette has come contributions from members of Iceage, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor to help add new wrinkles while also cutting into the beating heart of the intimate and familiar. Even the simplest of melodies somehow manage to come across as a dynamic undertaking, and that sense of large-scale drama is at least partly owed to McMahon’s dynamic voice, which stretches and contracts according to the needs of the track. It’s the biggest reason why 2014’s Love was such a critical darling, and plays an essential role in helping to make Freedom one of this year’s best records. His voice is clearer than ever on the new record, and feels oddly familiar yet entirely unique, like a combination of Kurt Vile, Adam Granduciel (The War on Drugs), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, J Spaceman, and Mick Jagger. You can’t always understand every single word he’s singing, but somehow it all makes sense, particularly in an emotional context.

Part of what makes any Amen Dunes record a compelling listening experience is that every song feels like a self-contained journey in service of a larger whole. You can drop in just about anywhere and find fulfillment, despite a minimal number of hooks or an overarching theme. Freedom does this best by crafting a seductive atmosphere of songs that shimmer like sunlight catching a piece of tin foil. The songs are slightly hazy, remarkably smooth, and politely insistent. You can dance to some of them, though they mainly hang out in a sort of mid-tempo range that at the very least leave your toe tapping. There are stories in these songs, packed with minor details to make them feel lived-in and real, but simultaneously withholding enough other bits of information to prevent it from coming across as too autobiographical. These things may have happened to somebody, just likely not McMahon himself. Many of the themes, including grief and family, stem from the struggle and emotional wreckage that resulted from his mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis a couple years ago. Instead of wallowing in sadness however, the record is more propelled by the emotional tension and relief that can be wrung from the instrumentals rather than the words themselves.

Seeing as how we’ve reached a point where Amen Dunes has never sounded better or more confident, now feels like the perfect time to see these songs performed in a live setting. It just so happens that McMahon and his band will be playing a show at Lincoln Hall next Tuesday, August 21st. It will mark his first time in Chicago since Freedom was released back in March, and promises to be a special night. Tickets are still available, so check out the details and come on out for what promises to be a great night of music!

Amen Dunes / Okay Kaya
Buy Tickets
Tuesday, August 21st
8PM / $15 (advance) / 18+

Lollapalooza 2018: 20 Artists to See


So you’ve decided to attend Lollapalooza 2018. Congratulations! You have made a smart investment in your musical future. At four days and 170+ artists however, there’s a whole lot to digest. You can’t see and do everything no matter how hard you try, so choices need to be made. Some choices are easier than others, but if you’re looking for a bit of guidance, allow me to play Pied Piper and point you in the direction of some bands and artists to see over the course of the weekend. Part of the goal here is to point out some lesser known or up-and-coming artists you might not be familiar with yet, but who are worth the effort to try and see (even if they perform early in the day). There are a few veterans sprinkled in for good measure as well, but no headliners because you can presumably figure those out on your own. Five recommendations per day with minimal time conflicts between them, so if you hustle around Grant Park here are 20 performances that will turn your festival experience from good to great. Join me after the jump and we’ll get started!

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Friday Recap


The weather was top of mind heading into this Pitchfork Music Festival weekend, primarily because the forecast predicted scattered thunderstorms all three days. Prepared to go with the flow whatever that might wind up being, I arrived at Union Park on Friday armed with a poncho, umbrella, and plastic bags for my cell phone, wallet, and camera if needed. It began to rain as I approached the entrance gate, so the poncho became a fashion accessory immediately. Undeterred by the showers, I wandered a short distance to the Red stage, where the ferocity of Melkbelly‘s guitars made for a rather appropriate weather soundtrack. They’re Chicagoans, so they fully understand how everything from temperature to precipitation can turn on a dime in this city. And turn it did, because not only did the rain stop after about 15 minutes, but the sun was shining by the end of Melkbelly’s set. It almost felt like a weird bit of coordination, as the band’s performance only got stronger, louder, and heavier as the weather got better. Did they scare the clouds away? When your show has such a high level of intensity, anything seems possible. They set the bar high right at the start of the day, and woe to whatever artist had to follow them.

The artist that followed them was Lucy Dacus. Even though she was coming in hot off her magnificent new record Historian, pretty much anything she did would be viewed as a slight letdown compared to what Melkbelly had just done. The good news is that Dacus didn’t attempt to be anything other than her truest self on stage. As such, there wasn’t anything particularly flashy or gimmicky in her performance, just some rock-solid songs and some good interplay with her band members. After spotting a few ominous-looking clouds in the distance after her first couple of songs, she quickly called an audible and changed the set list on the fly “out of fear” the weather might force them to end early. “I’m also a little worried about the possibility of getting electrocuted,” Dacus confessed. She needn’t be concerned however, as the rain never came and she finished the set without any problems. It was my first Lucy Dacus live experience, and if I’m being honest it was perfectly lovely.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Sunday Preview


Ah Sunday. If you’ve been attending the Pitchfork Music Festival for two days already, chances are your body will be beaten and tired. Drag yourself out of bed, pour some caffeine down your throat, and gear up for one last day of amazing music. Much like Friday, Sunday is packed with local Chicago performers who are both legends and up-and-comers. It promises to be a great day, and if you’re not sure about who you should be seeing, well, that’s kind of the purpose of this preview guide. So follow me past the jump and we’ll get right into it, yeah?

Before we get started:
Click here for a playlist of the entire Pitchfork Music Festival 2018 lineup
Click here for the Friday Preview Guide
Click here for the Saturday Preview Guide
Click here to buy tickets to the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival
Check back for coverage of the festival all weekend long!

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Saturday Preview


Back in February, a new program based in the EU called Keychange, which is focused on helping women transform the music industry, announced that they had partnered with 45 different music festivals from around the globe in a pledge to help create fully gender balanced lineups by 2020. Considering how lopsided the current festival landscape is, with major festival lineups like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza averaging somewhere around 20% female, committing to a 50/50 split will certainly take some work. Unfortunately most large festivals haven’t joined Keychange’s pledge, so the numbers will likely remain skewed for the foreseeable future. The folks behind the Pitchfork Music Festival also didn’t agree to have a gender balanced lineup by 2020. Instead, they’ve done it by 2018. Pitchfork is only one of two festivals (the other is Panorama) to do it this year, and while there’s been very little attention given to this fact, it’s absolutely worth noting and celebrating. Will they choose to continue booking lineups this way in the future? I guess we’ll find out in 2019 and beyond. For now though, it’s heartening to know that Pitchfork is taking the lead in helping to create a more progressive and hospitable festival experience for persons of all genders and types. There’s a whole lot of talented women and men set to perform at Pitchfork on Saturday, and if you’re interested in learning more about them and who you should make an effort to see, read on below.

Before we get started:
Click here for a playlist of the entire Pitchfork Music Festival 2018 lineup
Click here for the Friday Preview Guide
Click here to buy tickets to the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival
Check back tomorrow for the Sunday preview guide, plus coverage of the festival all weekend long!

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Friday Preview


One of the best things about Friday at Pitchfork Music Festival every year is how relaxed the overall vibe is compared to the rest of the weekend. It’s less a product of the artists on the lineup and more the result of lower attendance (because many people are working), later arrivals (some show up after work), and people wanting to conserve their energy for the days ahead. You spend the day getting your bearings, learning where everything is located, and trying not to over-extend yourself. Yet it’s still a blast and the lineup is certainly nothing to sneeze at either. This year one of the biggest features of Pitchfork Fest is just how LOCAL it is. Yes, it’s very local every year, but that’s mostly reflected in the vendors and fun side attractions rather than the music itself. There are always a handful of Chicago artists and bands on the lineup, which has been nice but felt more like an afterthought than an actual intention. With 13 Chicago acts (out of 42 total) on the 2018 lineup, that’s no longer the case. Not only that, but the artists that were booked are all highly respected and critically acclaimed. If this is something Pitchfork hopes to continue in the future I worry they may run out of good choices, even though the local music scene is pretty massive. But we’ll take what we can get, and this year promises to be one of the best yet. There are five Chicago artists performing on Friday, including two bands that kick off the festival proper. Learn a bit more about all of them, and check out my personal picks for who to see hour-by-hour below.

Before we get started:
Click here for a playlist of all the Pitchfork Music Festival 2018 lineup
Click here to buy tickets to the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival
Check back later this week for the Saturday and Sunday preview guides, plus coverage of the festival all weekend long!

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Hear the Lineup


It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With the music for festing and everyone telling you have a cold beer. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yes friends, it’s time once again for Christmas in July, aka the start of music festival season in Chicago. I’m thrilled to once again to spend the week providing wall-to-wall coverage of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. The next seven (or so) days will be jam packed with previews, reviews, highlights, and music direct from Chicago’s Union Park. The 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival officially begins this Friday, July 20th, and runs all weekend with 40+ performances from a diverse set of artists and bands from the (figurative) past, present, and future. So whether you’re already planning to attend, are thinking about attending, or are simply wishing that you could go, my hope is there’s something for everybody with this extensive guide to one of the best and most unique music festivals on the planet.

Before attending a smaller, more boutique festival like the Pitchfork Music Festival, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the lineup. Pitchfork historically has one of the most well-rounded lineups every year, and often includes smaller, up-and-coming artists you’ll be hearing much more about in the coming years. Not every band is a household name, so if you’re not up on, say, Irreversible Entanglements, you might want to know what they sound like before choosing to include them as you plan out your schedule for the weekend. This is where a playlist comes in handy. Below you’ll find a variety of ways to learn a bit more about the artists performing at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, including tracks to stream on YouTube and Soundcloud. If Spotify is your preferred streaming service, I’ve also assembled a playlist (ordered by day and set time) at the very bottom of this post featuring two songs from just about everyone on the lineup. Click around, explore a bit, listen to some tracks, and get your bearings before this weekend!

If you’re thinking about attending this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival but don’t have your passes yet, here’s where you can go to find out more information and purchase tickets. The official preview guide starts tomorrow, with an hour-by-hour breakdown of the best acts to see on Friday. Join me, won’t you?

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Pick Your Poison: Monday 7-16-18

Oh, I love these extended editions of Pick Your Poison, mostly because I still believe in free music downloads as a format. There’s something comforting about having a song always available on your laptop or phone, where you don’t need to connect to Spotify or Soundcloud to listen to it. Of course I realize that’s a somewhat unpopular opinion these days, but don’t particularly care. If downloads are still your thing as well, you might want to check out tracks from The Chairman Dances, Favours, Lee Mazin, and Static Diary. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, you’ll also find songs from Chantel Jeffries (ft. Vory), CHILDCARE, Fabolous (ft. Ty Dolla $ign), Future Generations, Galantis, I Am J Dubb (ft. Money Man), K. Roosevelt, Late Night Episode, Russo, Seafret, World’s Fair (ft. Nasty Nigel, Cody B. Ware, Freaky Franz), and more!

The Chairman Dances – No One Can Hurt You (Like a Friend Can Hurt You)

Favours – In the Night

Jeanne Vomit-Terror – Jokes Come True

Lee Mazin – Ooh Baby

Leo Star – Soft & Gentle

Static Diary – Phrase From Business

Teyana Taylor – WTP (Lupe Fuentes Remix)

yellowbirdd – Let the Engine Run

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Pick Your Poison: Thursday 7-12-18

One of my favorite things about Turntable Kitchen’s “Sounds Delicious” series is that they convince a whole bunch of cool indie artists to record full album covers of often underappreciated classics. Artists like Death Cab for Cutie, Frankie Rose, and Pure Bathing Culture have all participated in the past, and now it’s Cults’ turn. They’ve chosen to cover the 1979 self-titled debut album from California new wave band The Motels, which seems like a good choice for them. You can get a taste of what that sounds like with their version of “Total Control” below. Speaking of covers, the Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty turns 20 years old this week, and plenty of people are feeling nostalgic about it, including Jacuzzi Boys. Their version of “Song for the Man” is a little different from the original, as they turn it into a more energized surf rock/Beach Boys-esque summertime jam. I’ve always held an appreciation for Tokyo Police Club, a band that has spent the last decade writing bouncy, upbeat, and addictive rock songs while somehow never getting the massive fame they so richly deserve. It wouldn’t surprise me if they eventually wind up like Phoenix, Cage the Elephant, or Portugal. the Man, all of whom released a few great records with very little recognition before finally hitting it big. Will this be the one for Tokyo Police Club? Get your first dose of their next long player TPC (out Oct. 5th) with the single “Hercules”. Keep going past the jump and hear more music from artists that include Abbi Press, Cubicolor, Denzel Curry, Howard, Marquis Hawkes (ft. Jamie Lidell), RL Grime, Rubblebucket, Tony Molina, Wild Pink, and more.

Cults – Total Control (The Motels cover)

Jacuzzi Boys – Song for the Man (Beastie Boys cover)

Tokyo Police Club – Hercules

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Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 7-10-18

The new Astronauts, etc. album Living in Symbol will be out in a couple of weeks, but you can get another taste of what’s ahead with the lush and lightly psychedelic “Shut My Mouth”. Up-and-coming Chicago rapper Juice WRLD teams up with Lil Uzi Vert for the very solid and very catchy “Wasted”. Lo-fi electro-folk artist Westerman’s latest single “Easy Money” floats along on only the most relaxed vibes, but it’s still quite a delight. Cruise on past the jump and you’ll find plenty more music to digest, including tracks from Benny Benassi & Sofi Tukker, BIJOU (ft. Way), Blanke & Kayoh, Gold Star, JPEGMAFIA, Majik, Matroda & RICCI, Matt Muse (ft. Femdot), and Thin Lips.

Astronauts, etc. – Shut My Mouth

Juice WRLD – Wasted (ft. Lil Uzi Vert)

Westerman – Easy Money

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Pick Your Poison: Monday 7-9-18

Let’s start the post-July 4th weekend hangover edition of Pick Your Poison with a little bit of local love. Fauvely is a talented Chicago-based singer-songwriter whose voice happens to sound a bit like Natalie Merchant. That’s not really of any importance other than to provide a frame of reference. Her latest single “Tides” feels like a step forward for her, as it’s more cleanly recorded/produced and includes additional instruments to really give everything a bigger, more widescreen sound. Speaking of a bigger sound, the new song from Henri manages to feel expansive even as the figurative walls seem like they’re closing in around it. Some remarkably great House music with a guest vocal from Imogen Rose that gives it a very distinctive Chromatics-like vibe. There’s also a lovely new one from Her’s, which adds some energy and synths to the waltzy melody, which makes it easy to get stuck in your head. Keep on driving past the jump, and you’ll also get songs from Lima x Syn, Michael Paradise, Montevideo, The Night Cafe, Nightseason, Sky Keller, Thomas Fehlmann, YK Osiris, and more.

Fauvely – Tides

Henri – Last Dance (ft. Imogen Rose)

Her’s – Harvey

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Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 7-3-18

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, aka Independence Day here in America, so the site will be taking a short vacation for the rest of this week. But before setting off some fireworks though, let me pass along one more collection of tracks for your extended holiday weekend (if you’re celebrating). Norwegian dance-pop producer Bearson has collaborated with electro-pop musician and producer MNDR for an effortlessly catchy track that’s perfect for a day at the beach. One of the more iconic pop/R&B songs of the last several years has been Drake’s “Hotline Bling”. One of the more iconic pop stars so far this year has been Billie Eilish. Pair the two, and the result is pretty solid. I’d argue it’s not as good as the original, but absolutely still worth a listen. And hey, Jack White is releasing a live album as part of his Third Man Records Vault subscription series! It’s a vinyl-only pressing that contains audio from intimate shows he performed in Nashville and Detroit earlier this year. You can hear a wild version of “Corporation” that he performed at Detroit’s Cass Corridor below. There’s more explosive fun past the jump, including songs from ayokay (ft. Future Jr.), Fabian Mazur (ft. Nevve), Hosannas, Inner Wave (ft. Bane’s World), LIINKS, MUGGS x DOOM (ft. Kool G Rap), Nightseason, Rob Garza, and Scott Xylo (ft. Afronaut Zu, Catherine Sera & Marcus Joseph). Have a great 4th of July holiday everyone!

Bearson – I Only Need One (ft. MNDR)

Billie Eilish – Hotline Bling (Drake cover)

Jack White – Corporation (Live at Cass Corridor)

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Pick Your Poison: Monday 7-2-18

Welcome to July, where the weather is hot, and the music is even hotter! Ugh, I feel like some sort of cliche advertiser spouting that sort of schtick. But hey, it’s a holiday week, and I want to help supply you with some fresh tunes for your parties, cookouts, and fireworks. There’s a little something for everyone in this set. A short but white hot fire track from A$AP Ferg helps to kick things off. Not sure why NONONO aren’t massively popular yet. The Swedish band had a minor crossover hit with their song “Pumpin Blood” back in 2014, but haven’t released much since then. There’s a new album presumably on the way, but they wanted to share this breezy pop song “Ego” now to help fill out your summer soundtrack. Getting some interesting Screaming Trees vibes from the new Slothrust track “Peach”, which is to say that the guitars have just the right amount of heaviness to make them feel like a blissful punch to the face. It’s muscular but tender at the same time, kind of like the fruit the song was named after. Soar beyond the jump and you’ll find more music from Beezewax, cleopatrick, dijon., GANZ (ft. CUT_), Julia Michaels, Majken, Mr Little Jeans, The Score, and Sevenn.

A$AP Ferg – Not the Boy

NONONO – Ego

Slothrust – Peach

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