Japandroids, Cloud Nothings play Empty Bottle surprise show

It was billed as a mystery show Friday night. Now, Empty Bottle just announced that Japandroids (above) and Cloud Nothings will play a show with no advance tickets and barely any advance notice.

Tickets are $10 — cash only — and will be sold at the door when it opens at 9 p.m. Friday night. No lining up before 7 p.m., according to an email from the Bottle.

One ticket per person.

Both bands released decent albums this year and have strong back catalogs. They are both highly energetic live.

Shilpa Ray plays Chicago’s Hideout

Shilpa Ray is a Brooklyn singer songwriter who melds blues, doo-wop, garage and other musical styles often punctuated by her big, booming voice.

On Door Girl, Ray reflects on life — nightlife in particular — in New York. It’s told from the perspective of someone who actually worked the door of a Lower East Side bar in Manhattan. Her music is original and interesting.

She plays Hideout Saturday.

Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile make beautiful music together

It seemed like it may be too much of a good thing. Australia’s quirky singer songwriter Courtney Barnett teams up with Philly indie god Kurt Vile.

But the duo’s Lotta Sea Lice is really a special album. It feels more like a Kurt Vile album but Barnett’s contribution is, of course, invaluable and incredible.

These are two of the best singer songwriters on the planet right now. So, should you grab the album? Uh, yeah.

These guys play three sold-out Chicago shows next week at Empty Bottle, Thalia Hall and University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel.

Torres plays Chicago, tours new album

Torres recently followed her excellent 2015 album Sprinter with another fine release, Three Futures.

If you’re not familiar with Torres (aka Mackenzie Scott), her music will appeal to fans of St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten and — on this latest release — Patti Smith and early Liz Phair.

Torres’ music is solid. Check out the album and, if you’re in Chicago, catch her at Subterranean Thursday, October 5.

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

Guided By Voices returns to Chicago for two shows

The pride of Dayton, Ohio, and former school teacher Robert Pollard, has been rocking hard since the 1980s. Pollard’s band Guided By Voices (lovingly known as GBV to fans) was scarcely heard outside Ohio until the critical acclaim of the early ’90s classics Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes. From then on, a hardcore fan base began to build.

There’s a familiarity Pollard brings to each album. Whether your last listen to a GBV album was Alien Lanes or Isolation Drills (2001) or Cool Planet (2014), you’ll find Pollard’s latest (the soon-to-be released GBV album How Do You Spell Heaven) is like catching up with an old friend. Really, it’s like no time has passed. GBV albums sound far more highly produced than the bare-bones lo-fi recordings from the early years. But, otherwise, the formula is the same. There’s that British Invasion love, an absurd tapestry of unrelated words and phrases and the highly addictive guitar-driven music.

Pollard is just shy of turning 60 but doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Despite twice disbanding GBV, he’s recorded more than two dozen studio albums with a rotating cast of musicians. And that’s just as GBV. As a solo artist, he’s released more than 20 albums. He’s also recorded and performed with multiple side projects. Earlier this year, he announced that altogether he’s released 100 albums. His song count is said to be more than 2,000.

But you can rely on him pulling out a number of well-known, often-performed GBV hits when his longtime band plays Chicago this weekend for a sold-out show at Beat Kitchen Friday and an outdoor gig at Wicker Park Fest Saturday night.

And, by the way, a GBV show is always a blast.

How Do You Spell Heaven is set for release August 11.