Amen Dunes plays Schubas Wednesday

Amen Dunes is the project of New York-based Damon McMahon. Following last year’s impressive album, Love, McMahon followed up with an EP, Cowboy Worship, in January.

Amen Dunes plays Schubas Wednesday. Get there early enough to see Weyes Blood open.

Ryley Walker’s Primrose Green takes a trip back in time

Chicago singer-songwriter Ryley Walker creates an eclectic blend of folk, jazz, psychedelia and rock on his new album, Primrose Green. The sound is such a throwback to late ’60s, early ’70s, that you’d swear you just discovered some long-lost relic from decades past.

Primrose Green is released Tuesday. Walker plays a hometown show at Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park Monday.

One of Primrose Green’s highlights for me is the song, Sweet Satisfaction, which reminds me of Van Morrison’s watershed album Astral Weeks.

Here’s a KEXP radio performance featuring Walker last year.

Lollapalooza’s 11 acts to see

Twenty years ago, Sonic Youth and Pavement were at the top of the bill for the then-travelling Lollapalooza. This year, 72-year-old Paul McCartney is the No. 1 draw and freaking Sam Smith is among the top four acts listed for the big show in Chicago. Metallica (currently residing in the where are they now category) and Florence + the Machine round out the “top” acts at the July 31-August 2 event.

I’ve come to expect a mixed bag from this highly touted fest, which is to say there are plenty of good acts.

Here are my top 11 to see at this year’s Lolla.

Flying Lotus. The genre-hopping artist was an afternoon highlight of Pitchfork Music Festival three years ago. He’ll get the Lolla crowd worked up as well.

Sturgill Simpson. This guys plays like an old-old-school country musician. His music hearkens back to a time when hard-living men and women performed country.

The War on Drugs. Coming off a critically well-received album, Lost in the Dream, the word is out on this excellent Philly band.

Death From Above 1979. The Canadian duo is back together and rocking hard.

Hot Chip. This band’s set was another peak point for Pitchfork fest in 2012. Hot Chip brings the party.

Father John Misty. J. Tillman just released another gripping, heartfelt album under the moniker Father John Misty. This isn’t light pop but it’s very good.

The Tallest Man on Earth. By far, he’s the best folk-rock Swede playing the Lolla lineup this year.

FKA Twigs. Here’s another critical darling from last year (she reminds me of Grimes). To see St. Vincent at Pitchfork last year, I unfortunately had to miss FKA Twigs.

Tame Impala. The Aussie group is the biggest, most popular of the new wave of psychedelic rockers.

Twin Peaks. Hey. You’re going to be in Chicago. Check out local guys Twin Peaks.

And, of course:

Paul McCartney. He is the last Beatle alive who’s worth seeing.

Courtney Barnett’s debut album is a gem

Courtney Barnett

My introduction to Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett was her 2013 combined short releases, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, a raw, quirky selection of songs packed with great hooks.

On her proper debut, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, Barnett makes the most of mundane subjects set to a little slicker production but still delivered in her signature deadpan. And there are plenty of hooks. Even as the guitars rise on tracks like the blistering, Pedestrian at Best, the pitch of Barnett’s vocals hardly ever moves. The songs often are set to seemingly innocuous or routine events (swimming, house hunting, shopping). It’s not exactly an album about nothing but it is pretty darn mundane albeit very enjoyable.

“I never write songs about anything wildly exciting,” she told the New York Times recently. “They’re just everyday things. It just really interests me, those tiny little moments that could easily pass you by.”

It’s those little moments that Barnett captures so well.

Released this week, this is a highly recommended album. Catch Barnett at Chicago’s Pitchfork fest in July.

Nothing brings hard shoegaze sound to Empty Bottle

Guilty of Everything, the breakout album last year from Philadelphia band Nothing, took fuzzy ’90s band influences and added a hammer. Some of the songs on Guilty will lull you into a calm state only to pummel you in the end.

I like the sound a lot and recommend the album and the band. Go check them out yourself Saturday at the Empty Bottle. Nothing opens for Torche.

Shannon Wright plays Chicago’s Beat Kitchen

If you’re looking for a heavy dose of heavy Friday night, Beat Kitchen is your venue. Young Widows is the headliner but I’m actually more intrigued by opener Shannon Wright, who is performing her first US tour since the 2013 release of In Film Sound. That album is brutal and its songs would be a thrill to see live.

Wright moves from quiet to bombastic throughout In Film Sound. On first listen, I kept thinking of Chicago’s Steve Albini, who helped record two of Wright’s earlier releases. She spent a decade signed to Chicago’s legendary Touch and Go Records.