Wand releases new album, plays Chicago

I’ve been a big fan of Wand ever since the release of the band’s first album several years ago. The albums are instantly catchy and likable on first listen.

And while there’s plenty of that charm on the band’s latest album, Plum, some of the music demands a little more attention.

The last two songs on the album, Blue Cloud and Driving, clock in at a combined 15 minutes. It’s a departure from the irresistible three or four minute psychedelic nuggets from previous releases but no less satisfying. These two jams show a desire to stretch musically and that’s a welcome change.

Check out Wand at Lincoln Hall Saturday night.

Against Me! hits Chicago this weekend

As anthemic mainstream punk bands go, Against Me! is solid: Good songwriting, raw emotion and a great sound.

The band has one of the more interesting back stories, too.

Lead singer Laura Jane Grace started performing as Against Me! as a 17-year-old boy in the late ’90s. After forming a full band and achieving some commercial success a decade later, Grace (formerly Tom Gabel) came out as a transgender woman in 2012.

On last year’s Shape Shift With Me, Grace throws down good songs.

Catch the band this Saturday at Concord Music Hall. And bonus: Bleached opens!

Hideout Block Party: Pictures from Saturday

Chicago’s Hideout brought back its end-of-summer block party with a great lineup Saturday.

Local legend Eleventh Dream Day headlined with a strong roster of openers, including Jon Langford, Yo La Tengo’s alter ego Condo Fucks and New Jersey’s Antietam.

Condo Fucks

Eleventh Dream Day

Jon Langford (featuring Sally Timms)

Antietam

Downtown Boys speak out, release video

Downtown Boys

Downtown Boys just released a video for the song Somos Chulas (No Somos Pendejas) from the band’s excellent new album, Cost of Living.

The video juxtaposes live performance footage of the band with a kid’s birthday party.

In a statement, the band — always out front with thoughtful political commentary — explains inspiration for the video:

“We hope you enjoy this video. Chulas are people who believe in the mergence of our past experiences and what we want the future to be. This mergence becomes our reality, and right now that includes a lot of pain and healing in our community at so many levels. We feel that the recent decision made by the white supremacist faction of our Federal government around DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) was not a decision based on economic justice for the USA nor based on advancing real immigration reform. It was based on racism against immigrants.

“We know a lot of people who like Downtown Boys, come to our shows, or listen to our music are affected by this. We also want to acknowledge the millions of immigrants that were never even eligible for DACA and face criminalization, deportation, and racism daily. We must continue to fight against all borders. Demonizing people of color and immigrants is not a solution. We know we can’t do much, but we can try to get as much information on this out there as possible. We urge anyone who is affected by the DACA decision or knows someone who is affected to look into United We Dream and the National Immigration Law Center. People have until October 5 to renew their DACA paperwork. Read more and find out how to get involved here.”

Nadine Shah, War on Drugs, Japanese Breakfast: Three albums to grab now

It may be after Labor Day but it feels like summer in Chicago. So why not recap some excellent summer releases?

Historically, summer albums often slipped through the cracks. Maybe they were artistically solid but they didn’t get the publicity to attract listeners.

Well, here are three albums that deserve to be heard (one got a great deal of attention, while the other two deserve just as much love).

One of the most anticipated albums of the year, the War on Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding, was released in late August.

The War on Drugs is led by Philly’s Adam Granduciel. His music conjures up popular music from the 1980s, particularly the guitar-synthesizer combo, and yet it still sounds contemporary. For example, Granduciel shows songwriting and musical depth on the 11-minute Thinking of a Place, a highlight from the new album.

Nadine Shah’s Holiday Destination is a stunning album. It’s punch in the face social commentary.

Shah, an English singer songwriter, makes very compelling music. It will certainly appeal to fans of PJ Harvey and St. Vincent.

Check out the outstanding track Out the Way:

Japanese Breakfast is the solo project of Michelle Zauner (pictured above), a singer, songwriter and musician who crafts amazing pop songs.

Soft Sounds From Another Planet opens with the excellent 6 1/2 minute song Diving Woman, a song you won’t be able to get out of your head.

If you are a fan of last year’s release Psychopomp, you’ll love this release, too. If you missed it, grab that one, as well!

Grant Hart R.I.P.

Husker Du was far more than a great rock band from Minneapolis.

Part of the stable of SST Records in the early 1980s along with Minutemen, Meat Puppets and Black Flag, Husker Du was part of an incredibly innovative arm of the American punk movement that continues to have an influence decades later. In the beginning, Husker Du veered more toward hardcore than label mates Minutemen or Meat Puppets. The band’s sound refined to such an accessible level, however, the music still sounds fresh today.

Bob Mould was the front man, and Grant Hart, the three-piece band’s drummer, was also a songwriting and creative force of Husker Du. The band broke up in 1988 and never reformed.

Hart died this week after a battle with cancer. He was 56.