Blake Mills, guitar virtuoso, plays Space

He’s played with Beck, Cass McCombs, Lucinda Williams and Jackson Brown and he’s produced Conor Oberst, Sky Ferreira and Fiona Apple. Now Blake Mills is touring, supporting his new album Heigh Ho, with a couple local stops.

First up: Mills plays Evanston’s Space Saturday night. On Sunday, he plays Mayne Stage in Rogers Park. Though it’s not announced in advance, Fiona Apple has been joining Mills on his tour. She reportedly was with him in St. Paul last night.

Heigh Ho is Mills’ second solo album after the 2010 release Breaking Mirrors. He’s hailed as an outstanding guitarist. When superstar producers like Rick Rubin and T. Bone Burnett need a session guitarist, they often call Mills. He’s also producing the next Alabama Shakes album.

Iceage releases pair of new songs ahead of October album


Iceage just released another two songs from its upcoming album, Plowing Into the Field of Love (October 7).

While the band’s first couple of albums traced the origins of hardcore, these Danish punks seem to be stretching farther on this latest release. Of course that’s exactly what you want from a promising young band but good for Iceage to actually deliver.

Check out the songs, Glassy Eyed, Dormant and Veiled and How Many, below.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s Singer’s Grave reviewed


Bonnie Prince Billy Singer's Grave


Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) is back. And so is Anderson Dan, who is helping me review the latest album from the Prince, Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues. Dan, a bigger fan of BPB, sees the album as a continuation of Oldham’s excellent work. I think this new album is more accessible — almost pop (at points). A number of the album’s tracks are actually reworked versions of songs Oldham recorded for his 2011 record Wolfroy Goes to Town.

Dan: I do like the album but, really, it’s because I missed his voice, storytelling and gentle tone. Maybe this album feels more western than his previous stuff. I’m not sure, but when it’s on in the car I get an urge to drive right by my son’s school at drop off and hit the open road.

Punks: It has a big country and western vibe, especially on those first couple of songs (Night Noises, So Far and Here We Are). He uses a lot of classic country music techniques (like the chugging train rhythm and harmonizing). I’ve always thought Oldham was cool but I don’t recall any record grabbing me from start to finish. Maybe I overlooked him in the past but this album is a standout.

Dan: It hits a groove in the middle, notably Quail and Dumplings, Whipped and We Are Unhappy (I’m a sucker for banjo and my son sings this song around the house). Mindlessness is ridiculously good and probably has the most legs. His voice matches so well with the stellar background vocals.

Punks: Whipped and Mindlessness are highlights for me too. That middle section reminds me of when rock, folk and country converged in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

Dan: This has been such a fabulous year for folk music. (Read our review of Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness here.)


Wand, J Mascis, Sloan top new release roundup

WandGanglion Reef, the new album from L.A. band Wand is one of my favorite debuts this year. The album is out on Ty Segall’s God? imprint via Chicago’s Drag City. Shortly into the album, you’ll see why Segall likes the band. Wand delivers great songs (Flying Golem, Clearer, Broken Candle) and there are really no stinkers. This style of psych-garage definitely will appeal to Segall fans but also should grab your attention if you’re into Tame Impala or Temples.

Wand plays Empty Bottle Sunday.

I know Dinosaur Jr. front man J Mascis can shred an electric guitar. I also know he can rock an acoustic as he demonstrates on the recently released Tied to a Star. Even if Mascis’ ear-splitting guitar solos are your thing, you’ll likely dig this one.

Sloan has been cranking out perfect pop for more than two decades. On Commonwealth, the band divides the album in quarters, giving each band member a turn. So you’ll find the power pop songs you’d expect on a Sloan album in addition to a harder group of sounds and even an 18-minute experimental piece.

Riot Fest comes to Chicago this weekend

Chicago’s Riot Fest (at Humboldt Park this weekend) has an impressive (albeit heavily nostalgic) lineup. I said that earlier this year and I still think the festival pulled off one of the best overall mixes of bands among any of the big local events.

On Friday, check out the late afternoon set by the legendary punks Stiff Little Fingers. A Pussy Riot panel moderated by Henry Rollins follows. The evening lineup includes the mighty metal band Mastodon and skate punks Offspring, while Slayer, one of the pillars of ’80s and ’90s speed metal, headlines. (Slayer will play its 1986 release Reign in Blood in its entirety as part of a feature of this year’s fest that includes 10 bands playing noteworthy albums.)

Saturday features another punk legend, the Buzzcocks, who play a short set in the afternoon. The groundbreaking band Television (unfortunately minus guitarist Richard Lloyd) follows. An early evening set by Wu-Tang Clan should not be missed and, unfortunately, you’ll be forced to choose between Flaming Lips or Descendents just before 8 p.m. The National is the best headliner playing Saturday night.

Sunday packs a wallop with (in order) Kurt Vile, the Hold Steady, Superchunk, Naked Raygun, Hot Snakes, Patti Smith and Cheap Trick. The Cure is probably the best bet for a headliner (unless you’re really into Weezer).