It's a week of indie artist concerts in the Chicago area. Tonight, atmospheric San Francisco rockers Film School will hit Chicago's Schuba's, to promote its new brooding, self-titled guitar rock CD debut. The disc has just been released on Beggars Banquet Records, and offers 10 tracks of jangling, wall-of-sound guitar bleeds, keyboard hypnotics and the often subdued and sometimes Dinosaur Jr.-esque quavering vocals of Krayg Burton. More information on the band is at the Web site at beggars.com/us/filmschool.
On Saturday, former Ohio rockers Early Man will hit the Empty Bottle in Chicago in support of its album Closing In, released last fall on Matador. The CD, which seems to channel the spirit and sound of Black Sabbath circa 1972, made Revolver magazine's 20 best albums of 2005. Hard rock fans will love this band.
Local folk-rocker Phylis Renee Marconi will hold a release party for her second CD, Let Me In, at 8 p.m. Wednesday at FitzGerald's in Berwyn. Fans of Melissa Etheridge should definitely not miss this show or this CD, which includes strong full-band arrangements that range from jammy roots rockers to dreamier, strummy acoustic melancholy. Marconi has the kind of smoky, powerful vocal delivery that sells every song with soulful emotion. Let Me In opens with "Fool Me Three Times," an anthem for everyone who's ever been consistently let down in a relationship … but keeps coming back for more. "I've Given You" follows up on that theme with one of the album's strongest tracks that admits "my heart is no longer whole." For more information, check her Web site at www.phylisreneemarconi.com.
There are currently a handful of bands that echo and expand on the dark guitar sounds popularized by The Cure some 20 years. Some of them, including Interpol, the Rapture and Mogwai, played with The Cure on the Curiosa festival a couple years back. Last week, Mogwai slipped through Chicago again, on a slightly smaller stage, in Chicago's Logan Square. If you missed the show, the band is on the road in support of a new disc, Mr. Beast, on Matador Records. The album listens like a soundtrack. Largely instrumental, it focuses on building themes generated by tense keyboards and chiming, driving guitar leads that soar and dive, such as the backing music to an action movie throughout.
While The Cure's sonic touchpoint is both Robert Smith's guitar tones and vocals, Mogwai relies very sparingly on vocals, preferring to move from stripped back guitar and bass support to buzzsaw angry guitars and intertwined keyboards, without any words at all on most tracks. The music changes up from driving alternative rock fuzz to sparse techno to contemplative; on "Team Handed" it offers a lazy jazzy interlude before the piano of the disc's instrumental single, "Friend of the Night," leads into an elephantine guitar march. For more information on this bravely experimental alternative act without a typical "frontman," check www.mogwai.co.uk.
The Melody and the Energetic Nature of Volume
EvansBlue makes a pretty good noise throughout its new CD, opening with the pounding guitars and melancholy but firey vocals of "A Cross and a Girl Named Blessed."
The theory behind the album title has to do with finding beauty in sonic intensity, and the band hits its best stride in creating that when it sets its sights on Sarah McLachlan. Surprisingly, McLachlan's hit, "Possession" works great as a hard rock anthem as the band demonstrates midway in its disc.
The beauty of McLachlan's original melody is upheld by the driving force of EvansBlue's standard crunching overdrive guitars to great effect, and McLachlan's labelmate, Tara MacLean, helps on background vocals, lending the faintest touch of softness to the track.
Singer Kevin Matisyn has a stadium rocker delivery that allows him to move from an emotional whisper to a belting yell in seconds, and often sells the band's songs better than they have a right to be sold. Musically, they could use a few more hooks, but there are definitely some solid rockers.
For more information, check www.evansblue.com.