04 Feb

Show Preview: Marlon Williams at Schubas [2/10]

People are so eager to affix artists with labels. They provide an easier way to understand what artists do, so outsiders can better determine if it might be right for them. As time marches forward and old ideas become new again, there are those that fight against such traditions, seeking to carve their own paths outside of the familiar. Pictures, words and sounds require a certain level of accessibility to establish an audience, but new twists on old favorites can usher in advancements and inspire others to do the same.

Marlon Williams is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand who is not so easily defined or labeled. Despite being in his mid-20s, many have called him an “old soul” based on the mature themes and influences that permeate his music. As with most who have grown up in the age of the mp3, such increased access allows you to explore anything and everything your heart desires. Even in the small coastal town where he grew up, the soundtrack of his youth included PJ Harvey, Smokey Robinson, Elvis, The Beatles and Gram Parsons mixed in with traditional Maori and gospel songs thanks to his time in a church choir. Williams’ father was also in a punk band, which most assuredly left an impression as well.

So after consuming so much and so many different styles and genres of music, it makes perfect sense that Williams is something of a sonic polymorph. Those quick to judgment have been saying his recently released self-titled album falls under the country or alt-country umbrella, but the reality is so much deeper and more varied. You can hear flourishes of folk, Americana, bluegrass, gospel, soul, rock and even punk twisted into this remarkable tapestry that transcends such easy definitions. At the heart of it all is that powerful voice, which anchors every song with purpose and meaning no matter what direction it takes. Case in point: he covers Nina Simone’s “When I Was A Young Girl” better than anyone I’ve ever heard outside of the original version. It’s striking and very Tim/Jeff Buckley-esque, to the level where it gave me (and I hope you) chills.

Following a sold out tour through Australia and New Zealand, Marlon Williams is now seeking to break out internationally with a tour that takes him around the globe in 2016. He’s currently making his way through North America, which includes a stop at Schubas Tavern this upcoming Wednesday, February 10th. Woodrow Hart & The Haymaker opens. This is a prime opportunity to see a rising star before he blows up, so do yourself a favor and don’t miss this show!

Marlon Williams with Woodrow Hart & The Haymaker
Wednesday, February 10
8PM / 18+ / $12

03 Feb

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 2-3-16

Let’s jump right in with the mid-week edition of Pick Your Poison, shall we? Make sure you check out free downloads from Allie X, Flower, LZRS TXN and Pillow Talk. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Bent Shapes, Givers, Into It. Over It., Kane Strang, Kedr Livanskiy, Kevin Gates (ft. Trey Songz, Ty Dolla $ign & Jamie Foxx), Prins Thomas, Purling Hiss, Young Thug (ft. Quavo), Yuck and more.

Allie X – Old Habits Die Hard

Flower – Let Me Down

Jumpcuts – Curses and Verses

LZRS TXN – It’s Not You, It’s Me

Pillow Talk – Monogamy (Demo)

Red Cabin – I Can’t Wait

Rois – Love High

Tom Misch & Carmody – Easy Love
Read more…

02 Feb

Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 2-2-16

It’s Groundhog Day, and if you believe in the power of a rodent to predict the weather, there’s good news ahead. In short, it looks like we’ll be getting an early spring. Of course thanks to El Nino spending the winter here in the U.S., that’s not terribly difficult to believe. Temperatures have been on average higher than normal around much of the country, and snow less frequent, despite the occasional blizzard. So after my complaints about February yesterday, so far this month is 2 for 2 in terms of good days. Let’s keep that trend going, shall we? In today’s Pick Your Poison, don’t miss downloads from AMERIA, KINGDOMS, Masayoshi Iimori and Vincent Colbert. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from DAWN, Gun Outfit, Howard, Islands, Lushlife x CSLSX (ft. Ariel Pink), Porches, Shit Robot, Sioux Falls, Terribly Yours, Throwing Shade, Twin Peaks and WRITER.


Annie Lennox – Little Bird (Du Tonc Rework)

Gibby – Run Tel Dat

KINGDOMS – Battery

Masayoshi Iimori – Whirlwind

Red Cabin – Ice Sculpture

Vincent Colbert – Beth (Hold On)
Read more…

01 Feb

Pick Your Poison: Monday 2-1-16

Welcome to February, a month that I typically regard as the worst of any year. My disdain for it has virtually nothing to do with Valentine’s Day or President’s Day or any other pseudo-holiday scheduled. It’s more of a weather-related, overall misery sort of feeling that permeates the month so much the calendar makers even cut a few days out so it’d only last 28 days. In 2016 we get 29 thanks to leap year rules. But who knows, maybe it won’t be so bad. It’s nice to be hopeful whenever possible, so I’m choosing to believe the days ahead will all be winners. Pick Your Poison is helpful getting things started right, with a solid set of tracks that include downloads from Federal Lights, The Head, Idalee, Sharks In The Deep End and Wanderwild. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from AMTHST, Carter Tanton (ft. Sharon Van Etten), Earl Sweatshirt, Flume (ft. Vince Staples & Kucka), Katy B x KAYTRANADA, Lushlife x CSLSX (ft. Freeway), Miguel (ft. Travis Scott), RYAN Playground, Summer Flake and Susanna.

The Anxiety Society – Taking Direction

Federal Lights – Into the Ground

The Head – Pebbles on the Ground

Idalee – Heal

Paltsa Kai-Salama – Ran Out of Love


Sharks In The Deep End – Shadows in the Sunset

Wanderwild – Optimist
Read more…

27 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 1-27-16

Woof. Did you devote any attention to that Kanye West/Wiz Khalifa feud that happened on Twitter this afternoon? It was a doozy, at least from Kanye’s perspective. See, Wiz had been cracking a couple of lighthearted jokes about Kanye changing the name of his album from SWISH to WAVES, and then commented about “KK” which Kanye interpreted as an attempt to hit on his wife, Kim Kardashian. The thing was, Wiz was referring to a certain strain of weed with the nickname “KK”. Anyways, the confusion caused Kanye to go on a tweet rampage where he viciously insulted Wiz over and over again while simultaneously complimenting his style choices, particularly when it comes to pants. The whole thing was a bit dark but also very funny in hindsight. If you’re interested, check out the full play-by-play here. Now then, let’s dive right into a fresh mid-week edition of Pick Your Poison to enjoy while wearing stylish pants. Don’t miss downloads from Ashley Shadow, Chet Faker, Jesse Marco and Reina del Cid. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Amber Arcades, A$AP Rocky (ft. Pharrell), Ash Koosha, B Boys, Big Black Delta, Champion + Four Tet, Frankie Cosmos, Littler, Mind Bath, Operators and School of Seven Bells.

All the People – Falling

Ashley Shadow – Tonight

Badlands – Echo

Chet Faker – In-Between

Jesse Marco – Bum Bum

Kid Froopy – Faded

Polar Bear – You Deserve It (ft. John Blu)

Reina del Cid – Death Cap
Read more…

26 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 1-26-16

Happy Tuesday! We’re past Monday, and that’s worth celebrating. Please enjoy this fresh edition of Pick Your Poison, replete with quality downloads from GETOVERHER, Laura Jean Anderson, Lazy Legs and Rois. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Beach Baby, Beverly, Cousin Stizz, Father John Misty, John Congleton and The Nighty Nite, Lissie, Nap Eyes, The So So Glos, Wavves and more!

Alma – West Side Winter (ft. Marcus Broderick)


Joe Bataan – Magic Rose (Mark de Clive-Lowe Remix)

Kavinsky – Rampage (Screwed by Rissa Boo)

The Landing – Paranoid (Kanye West cover)

Laura Jean Anderson – Righteous Girl

Lazy Legs – Heart Destroyer

Rois – Running to the Sun
Read more…

25 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Monday 1-25-16

Hope everyone on the East Coast is doing okay following that massive blizzard that hit over the weekend. Feeling particularly fortunate to be in Chicago where El Nino has made it a remarkably dry (and slightly warmer than average) winter so far. January has actually been somewhat bearable. If you’re stuck still digging out from 2 feet of snow, maybe some new music will help heat things up a bit. Make sure to check out some quality downloads from Eric Taylor Escudero, Flower, Mynth, Young Greatness and more. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Allan Kingdom (ft. Chronixx), The Coathangers, DIIV, Fatima Al Qadiri, Japanese Breakfast, Moro, Polica, Public Access T.V., The Range, Tourist and Wild Nothing.

Eric Taylor Escudero – The Uncountable Colours of the Sky

Flower – Dreams

Hashim – Al-Naafiysh (Will Clarke’s Bearded Dubbed ReRub)

J Hacha De Zola – Let It Go

Mica & Kardanski – Trouble (Sparkz Remix)

Mynth – Lola

Nate Leavitt – Take Me Back

Young Greatness – Squad Goals (ft. Wale)
Read more…

21 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 1-21-16

Wishing warmth and safety to all my friends and readers on the East Coast this upcoming weekend as a massive snowstorm heads your way. I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times already, but don’t go outside unless you absolutely have to! That’s actually good advice for anyone experiencing less than ideal winter conditions. Curling up on the couch with a good movie is one of the few things that can’t be beat. Maybe listen to some new music while you’re at it, too. Pick Your Poison can help with that, as always. Enjoy downloads in this set from Chrome Sparks, Foxtails Brigade, Mykki Blanco and Say No! to Architecture. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from AlunaGeorge (ft. Popcaan), Designer + Four Tet, Different Sleep (ft. Angelina Lucero), Future, Linden, Majical Cloudz, Mt. Si, Radiation City, Samantha Urbani (covering Rexy), Tinashe (ft. Juicy J) and Underworld.

Chrome Sparks – Tunnelrunner

Darren Styles – Come Running (Mija Remix)

Foxtails Brigade – We Are Not Ourselves

Mood Robot – Invisible Chains

My Cruel Goro – Lost E

Mykki Blanco – Scales

Say No! to Architecture – Wieder’s Floor

SpaceCream – Killer
Read more…

20 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 1-20-16

Last night, I had the privilege of catching one Mr. Bruce Springsteen, live in concert. If you’ve not had the chance to see the man along with the E Street Band, I strongly recommend checking it out. Granted, the Boss isn’t exactly a small independent artist on the rise who could use the support. He’s got millions upon millions of fans worldwide, and only plays stadiums. But unlike most “legacy” acts that have been around for a few decades, there’s been very little dip in quality with the show Springsteen puts on. Similar to Paul McCartney, he barely breaks a sweat as he cranks out hit after hit for 3+ hours, even taking the time to crowd surf and dance with audience members. The man may be in his mid-60s, but most musicians half his age would probably have trouble keeping up with him. I’m not even a die hard fan, but can’t deny the awesome power he and his band bring to the stage. You get your money’s worth, and that’s more than I can say about most artists. My sincere hope is that one of these Pick Your Poison artists can create a career as long and as vital as Springsteen’s. There are some promising choices in this particular set, so don’t miss downloads from Best Friends, Bike Thief, Shapes on Tape and Usurper of Modern Medicine. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from AURORA, Charlotte Day Wilson, Flume (ft. Kai), Guerilla Toss, Holy Wave, Kane Strang, Kanye West (ft. Kendrick Lamar), Posse, Purple Pilgrims, Radical Face and School of Seven Bells.

Alex Bent + The Emptiness – Run Like Hell

Best Friends – Wash Me Out

Bike Thief – Dark Dances

Laurent Wery – Bender (Watch My Hands Wobble)

Midnight Garden – Down

Shapes On Tape – Change(s)

Stray Echo – Nu Erotic Ghost

Usurper of Modern Medicine – Mercury in Motionless Space
Read more…

19 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 1-19-16

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After taking a brief holiday on Monday to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., Pick Your Poison is back in action with a fresh edition packed to the gills with quality new music. In this particular set, you’re not going to want to miss downloads from Adam Lempel, Ben Pearce, Jon Patrick Walker and Warning Light. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Babe Rainbow, Lionlimb, Lushlife x CSLSX (ft. Killer Mike), Lust for Youth, Mayer Hawthorne, MORLY, Oscar, Saul Williams, Ski Lodge, Whitney and Your Friend.

Adam Lempel – Berlin

Ben Pearce – Say Hello

Elephant 12 – Green Light Go!

Jon Patrick Walker – Hideous Monster

Kinder Than Wolves – Hazel Days

Mike Castle – Trying to Be the Man

SheLoom – America On Fire

Warning Light – The Lieutenant Colonel
Read more…

18 Jan

Show Review: Torres, Palehound + Julien Baker [Lincoln Hall; Chicago; 1/15/16]

It’s been just over eight months since Mackenzie Scott (aka Torres) released her sophomore album Sprinter, and I’m fairly certain she hasn’t left the road since then. At the very least, as of this past weekend she’s played three shows in Chicago over that time period – easily more than most non-local artists. I’d argue it’s the town that keeps drawing her back, but exceptional circumstances such as a tour opening for Garbage likely brought her back sooner than anticipated. This particular time she was asked to return for the Tomorrow Never Knows festival, a multi-day, multi-venue event focused on raising the profiles of up-and-coming bands/musicians. This is also known as “something for Chicagoans to do in the dead of winter when concert season is slow.” For the record, it’s a great way to pass the time with plenty of great live music. The triple bill of Torres, Palehound and Julien Baker is just a small testament to that, as all three left a sharp impression on 2015 with highly personal, emotionally devastating albums. It made me concerned I’d be walking out of Lincoln Hall on Friday night a shell of a human being, my insides shredded from so much anguish. Thankfully that wasn’t entirely the case.
The night began with an opening solo set from Julien Baker. Her debut album Sprained Ankle earned her a place on many “Best of” lists last year, with special attention paid to her powerful and raw lyrics delivered with the nuance of a strong gut punch. In a stunning six song set, Baker wrenched every bit of emotion from each moment. The packed room stood in hushed silence as the weight and beauty slowly became too much to bear. It was an incredibly compelling example of how a performer can fully connect with an audience and even drive a few to tears. My own eyes began to well up towards the end, and that’s a rarity. The 19-year-old Baker is undoubtedly a talent worth following with a long career ahead of her. This was her first-ever show in Chicago, and judging by how many people bought her record at the end of the night, it certainly won’t be her last.
After the delicate sadness that was Julien Baker’s set, it seemed like Palehound wanted to deal with serious emotional fallout in a completely different way. Very few of their songs could be considered delicate, instead opting for a much darker, angrier tone spiked with heavier ’90s style grunge guitars in the vein of Hole or (most accurately) Speedy Ortiz. Ellen Kempner doesn’t take relationships lightly, so getting emotionally wounded after a break-up fosters aggression and resentment rather than clear-cut sadness and depression. That’s what the record Dry Food is all about, and it hits hard. So too does the band’s live show. While Kempner played a few songs solo with just her and an electric guitar, a majority of the time she was joined by a bassist and drummer who helped flesh out many of the songs and give those wounds an extra little twist of the knife. The trio dynamic also allowed Kempner to take some sonic detours on songs like “Easy” and “Molly” with some solos that really gave the crowd a taste of her profoundly excellent guitar skills. While it certainly left me impressed in the first half of the set, things calmed down a bit towards the end, which would’ve been disappointing if this alternate side wasn’t equally as compelling. At one point we were treated to a new song she hadn’t played live before, taking care to note that it was written more recently when someone new had come into her life and changed her outlook in a more positive direction. It was just about the only love song that would be played all evening, and offered a glimpse into where Palehound might be headed next. No matter how things progress in terms of content or subject matter, the band made it pretty clear on Friday night that they are highly talented and a force to be reckoned with now and in the future. Don’t be surprised if you hear plenty about them in 2016 and beyond.
The biggest benefit of touring incessantly is that you develop a much stronger stage presence. That is to say you learn what works and what doesn’t to help create the best, most entertaining and engaging version of your live show as possible. Given that Mackenzie Scott spent a majority of her time on the road in 2015, it makes perfect sense that she’s all the better performer because of it. When I caught her last May, it was mere weeks after the release of Sprinter and there were clear indications she was still feeling things out a bit with the new songs. These are growing pains every artist goes through, and some handle it much better than others. In the case of Torres, eight months ago she sounded great and put on a confident, strong show, but a few small things like the set list could have used some adjustment. Specifically, the overall pacing was a little off, and there were a few moments when it felt like Scott was holding back just a bit. For all I know it could have been the circumstances of that particular day, mixing things up on tour for the sake of variety. No matter the factors, by all accounts the set on Friday at Lincoln Hall represented an increase in consistency and showmanship.
The somewhat ironic thing is that the set list was nearly the same as the previous Torres show last May, just the order of the songs had changed slightly. That served well to even everything out and create a clearer path from start to finish. From the slow burn opening salvos of “Mother Earth, father God” through the clawing descent of “The Harshest Light,” the nine song set felt very much like a journey into and out of darkness. The 1-2-3 punch of “New Skin,” Cowboy Guilt” and “Sprinter” slammed with the force and subtlety of a wrecking ball, leaving destruction and devastation in its wake. The weight of these songs also physically manifested itself through Scott’s body as she visibly trembled during the more intense moments of the set. This was particularly prominent during the back-to-back combination of “Son, You Are No Island” and “Strange Hellos,” the former of which was all underlying dread and the latter of which was all powerful, fiery release. For those few loudly punctuated minutes, everyone in the room was rapt with attention as the walls were painted with sheer ferocity and self-confidence. This was Torres at her most vital, suddenly coming into focus and finding her footing after wandering around lost in the darkness. Such a captivating catharsis contributed to what was the best Torres show I’ve seen to date. Can’t wait for the next one.

Buy Sprinter on iTunes
Read more…

14 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Thursday 1-14-16

The Academy Award nominations came out today, bringing a dash of much-needed excitement into this rather humdrum week in January. Not that there were a lot of surprises or snubs, though the Academy’s refusal to recognize the film Carol in the Best Picture and Best Director categories feels like an oversight. The same goes with minorities as we’re looking at the second year of #OscarsSoWhite. Anyways, even though this is a music site, I’m quite the movie buff in my spare time, to the point where I saw 200 films last year and 85% of them were 2015 releases I watched in an actual theater. I’d like to think that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to movies – more than most people. That’s not meant to be a brag, just trying to provide some context for my opinions and why I have them. The grand point here is that you absolutely should check out all of the films that were nominated for Oscars this year, because honestly they’re among the best of the best. Can’t really go wrong with any of them. But if you catch some of them and want to share your opinions somewhere, feel free to in the comments section. We can have a vigorous debate if you’d like. Let’s jump into the final Pick Your Poison for the week, shall we? There are quality downloads in this set from Allies For Everyone, Chris Storrow, Mick Jenkins and Pleasant Grove. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Amber Arcades, Big Ups, Field Music, Into It. Over It., Lane 8, Memoryhouse, Shearwater, She-Devils, Tiga and Yuck.

Allies For Everyone – It Takes All Kinds

Chris Storrow – A True Christian

GABI – Trap Queen (Fetty Wap cover)

Jo Passed – No, Joy (I’m Not Real, Girl)

Merival – Kicking You Out

Mick Jenkins – Grenade Theory (ft. theMIND)

Pleasant Grove – Disintegration (Consider Your Brother)

Whitney Winston – Maquinaria del Tiempo
Read more…

13 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Wednesday 1-13-16

Your mid-week Pick Your Poison contains a whole bunch of quality new music for you to enjoy, particularly in the Soundcloud section. But as far as downloads go, you should definitely not miss great cuts from Alpenglow, Flower, Lunice, Swaying Wires and Ursa Major. From a streaming perspective, after the jump you’ll want to check out songs from Bent Shapes, Charlie Hilton, Dilly Dally (covering Drake), Erykah Badu (remixing/covering Kanye West), Florist, Fort Romeau, Holy Esque, Mairead Green (ft. King Creosote), Woods and more!

Alpenglow – Solitude

AMFMS – Captives

Flower – Let Me Down

Lunice – Look Like

Opie Will Break Your Heart – Weep Woop

Sabbatical Year – Dd

Swaying Wires – Suddenly

Ursa Major – Dusk
Read more…

12 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Tuesday 1-12-16

Happy Tuesday. Chicago is in a deep freeze right now, which isn’t very fun. Allow me to provide some much needed warmth courtesy of some hot new songs. Don’t miss downloads in this set from Flatbush Zombies, Gladiola, Relick and The Romantic Era. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from Anderson .Paak, Anna Meredith, DJDS, Mogwai, Philco Fiction, Pop. 1280, Prince Rama, RUFUS DU SOL and Wyland.

Flatbush Zombies – Glorious Thugs

Glacci – All of My

Gladiola – Greatest Hits

Jo Passed – Lego My Ego

Nice Motor – All the Neighbors

Relick – Offering

The Romantic Era – Is This Love?

The Soul Rebels – I Try
Read more…

11 Jan

Pick Your Poison: Monday 1-11-16

Major Tom. Starman. Ziggy Stardust. Aladdin Sane. The Thin White Duke. The Man Who Fell to Earth. The Man Who Sold the World. These are but a few iterations and personas of the man born Davy Jones but best known as David Bowie. Over the course of a 40+ year career, he became known as a creative genius, innovator and all-around unique individual who in some ways changed what it means to be human. Late Sunday night that force of nature, an inspiration to millions, left this planet a mere two days after his 69th birthday. According to a brief statement from his family, Bowie passed away peacefully surrounded by his family after an 18 month battle with cancer. Very few people knew he was ill, so the news came as a genuine surprise to just about everyone. It gives his final album Blackstar, released on his birthday, extra depth and meaning. Unlike the rest of us, he knew this was coming and chose to spend his final months recording an excellent collection of songs that meditated on death. Given how many of his other albums and songs reflected on the same topic, nobody really suspected anything was amiss at the time. Now we know that he was saying goodbye, and one of his final acts was in service to fans. That really shows what kind of person Bowie was, creative until the very end.

Over the course of the next few weeks and months, you’ll read, hear and see plenty of tributes to David Bowie from fans, friends and family. I’ve been sharing some classic quotes and photos over on Twitter and Instagram if you’re so inclined to check those out. It’s wonderful to see how far and wide his influence spread, and comforting to witness the outpouring of love by those who truly identified with his unique sensibilities. As many have already said, Bowie showed us it was okay to be your true self no matter your age, race, gender, sexual orientation or general proclivities. Never let anyone or anything stop you from living your truth, as you see it. “Turn to face the strange,” as the chorus of “Changes” goes. So I’m grateful to Bowie for that and a host of other important life lessons learned through his music, acting, fashion and overall presence here on Earth. All of it continues today and into eternity, as people will continue to uncover and embrace his legend. If you’ve not yet explored the world of David Bowie, now’s as good of a time as any to start.

Of course you may also want to check out some brand new music from other artists, and Pick Your Poison has you covered there. Don’t miss downloads from Black Twig, Hardwell, Right Hand Left Hand and They Call Him Zone. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from The Arcs, dvsn, Harriet, Little Green Cars, Mavis Staples, Michael Nau, Sonya Kitchell, Timbaland (ft. Aaliyah & Strado) and Wet Ones.

Andy Allo – Hello (Adele cover)

Black Twig – 1998

Hardwell – Blackout

LZRS TXN – Let It Go

Miami Horror – Cellophane (Loframes Remix)

Right Hand Left Hand – Tarts and Darts

Scary Little Friends – Made Up My Mind

They Call Him Zone – Driving in Miami, in the Eighties
Read more…