The best album I heard last year by a Chicago band was Era by Disappears. While there are a number of great, interesting local acts, none of them quite rise to the level of Disappears. Led by ex-Ponys frontman Brian Case, Disappears channels some of the greatest experimental rock music pioneers like Can and the Velvet Underground. Disappears consistently puts out good albums. When the band needed a new drummer, Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley filled in a couple of years ago. Shelley is gone but the band sounds better than ever on Era.
The rest of my favorite Chicago albums follow (listed alphabetically).
Bitchin Bajas – Bitchitronics. This is a cool psychedelic experimental side project from Cave’s Cooper Crain.
Cave – Threace. The krautrock masters are back with another solid album.
My Gold Mask – Leave Me Midnight. Easy to get hooked on this one. Moody, spooky big pop sound.
The Orwells – Other Voices / Who Needs You. Two EPs from the suburban pop outfit this year. Other Voices is a free EP in exchange for your email (get it here). Who Needs You features the standout title track.
Smith Westerns – Soft Will. These guys get closer and closer to the big time. Just listen to the knockout sparkling pop single 3am Spiritual.
Twin Peaks – Sunken. This is a promising debut from a young Chicago band. Brash, uptempo rock: Definitely keep an eye on these guys.