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By Andy Argyrakis
Weekend Report: Say goodbye to 2011 in style
Friday, December 30, 2011
Even though Cage the Elephant's been in business since 2006, 2011 was undoubtedly a breakout year for the Bowling Green-bred indie rockers. Aside from catching its bluesy punk/garage rock rumblings, this bill is packed with fellow burgeoning bands like Morning Teleportation, Sleeper Agent and Company of Thieves. (Bet your life - Saturday at Aragon Ballroom - Chicago, IL: www.jamusa.com).
Big Head Todd & The Monsters may technically be the headliner at House of Blues to ring in 2012, but the real reason to show up is support sets from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven (who continue to intermix members despite having fairly varied sounds). Both of those latter acts promise plenty of hits and classic album tracks, while CVB will also toss in a few tunes from its first new studio album in seven years. (Bet your life - Saturday at House of Blues - Chicago, IL: www.livenation.com).
Originally booked at the Vic Theatre but moved to the Riviera Theatre to accommodate swelling audiences, Big Gigantic should have no trouble appealing to jam band fans. And for those unfamiliar with the band's brass-stacked sounds, there's no excuse not to grab a free download of its latest disc "The World Is Yours" at www.biggigantic.net/worldisyours. (Worth a shot - Saturday at Riviera Theatre Ð Chicago, IL: www.jamusa.com).
Street Week: No new releases, but the ten best of 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
The week after Christmas is traditionally the slowest when it comes to new record releases, but that doesn't mean you have to sit on that gift money until the New Year. In fact, here are ten top reasons to hit the stores (either physical or digital) and catch up on 2011's best from a slew of familiar faces.
1. Wilco The Whole Love (dBpm Records)
For the first time in its 20 year career, Wilco didn't just dive into an album after a tour, but took the proper time to regroup personally and professionally. As implied by the breather, this eighth overall career long player finds the earthy rock n' rollers sounding especially rejuvenated across a blur of sunny pop, reflective ballads and upbeat celebrations.
2. Foo Fighters Wasting Light (RCA)
At this point of the Foo Fighters' career, the band is virtually unsinkable thanks to front man Dave Grohl's ever-expanding charisma and his backers' thundering rock n' roll innovation. The veterans continue at full stream throughout the current collection, thanks in part to production from legendary Nirvana producer Butch Vig.
3. Duran Duran All You Need Is Now (Tapemodern)
When Duran Duran turned to Timbaland and Justin Timberlake to give the band a botox job come 2007's "Red Carpet Massacre" (Epic), it didn't go as well as planned. As a result, Simon Le Bon and the boys come out swinging with this return to form follow-up, which finds the '80s heroes writing the latest chapter in new wave history.
4. Elbow Build a Rocket Boys! (Fiction/Polydor/Downtown)
Critical acclaim has followed Elbow at every turn, but for once, all of the praises are true. The English act continues casting mesmerizing spells with a dreamy blend of Brit and prog pop, wrapped around the ethereal vocals of front man Guy Garvey.
5. R.E.M. Collapse Into Now (Warner Brothers)
Athens, Georgia's favorite sons R.E.M. may be no more, but the band continues to stand the test of time. The trio reconnected with producer Jacknife Lee, the man responsible for the group's last revival record, and also benefit from guests as diverse as Patti Smith, Peaches, Eddie Vedder and Joel Gibb (The Hidden Cameras).
6. Incubus If Not Now, When? (Epic)
For its sixth studio CD, Incubus teams with super producer Brendan O'Brien (Bob Dylan, Pearl Jam, Rage Against The Machine) and blends the best of alternative and psychedelic rock, wrapped around newly explored sonic and lyrical experimentation.
7. Coldplay Mylo Xyloto (Capitol)
Though the Chris Martin-led modern rockers are full-fledged superstars these days, its latest suggests there's still plenty of room for musical experimentation. "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" led the charge as a single with surging acoustics and towering percussion, though the disc also serves as a partial throwback to the band's stripped down Brit rock beginnings.
8. The Chemical Brothers Hanna (Back Lot Music)
The idea of The Chemical Brothers dedicating an entire album's worth of material towards a movie soundtrack may sound strange at first, but upon closer examination, it's actually a fitting decision. For starters, the group's larger than life beats and gargantuan sonic soundscapes have always possessed a cinematic feel, while the duo is still amongst the most inventive in the entire electronica/instrumental scene.
9. Cake Showroom of Compassion (Upbeat)
After an interminable seven year wait, Cake's chart-topping comeback collection possesses the group's primary alternative/college rock elements, plus an influx of acoustic pianos, additional reverb, stacked guitars and a hearty dose of lushly layered harmonies.
10. Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (Capitol)
Despite never releasing the first installment, the Beastie Boys return for this round of updated sessions following Adam "MCA" Yauch's victory over cancer. Even though the rap/rock trio is approaching elder statesman status, like-minded emcees half their age could learn a thing or two from the trio's continued beat-centered brilliance.
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