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Canasta Does Four in Four

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Apr 3, 2006 4:47PM

Chicagoist has watched as a string of our favorite artists have played Practice Space residencies at Schuba’s. This month is no exception as Canasta spends the month of April giving us a reason to leave the house on Monday nights.

2006_04_canasta.jpgFormed in 2002, Canasta are hardly new on the scene. Their 2003 EP picked up accolades left and right, including a nod from Illinois Entertainer as one of “Chicago’s Best Unsigned Artists.”

Canasta avoids the pitfalls suffered by other bands of its ilk. For whatever reason, some guitar pop bands are not content to be just that. So in a stab at respectability, cellos, horns and other orchestration are layered in, whether the songs call for it or not. Canasta’s music succeeds because the arrangements are carefully considered and bring out the flavor in the material rather than drown it in a wall of sound (we may now be entering an era when Pet Sounds is doing more harm than good). Rather than trap itself in a chamber pop box, the sextet tosses in the occasional nod at country and rocks just enough to wake the neighbors.

Their full-length album We Were Set Up dropped in November of last year and is an unequivocal delight full of slavish devotion to melodic pop song structures. Songs about what it’s like to be in a rock band usually sound trite, but the angst expressed in “Microphone Song” is so universal, it could be about a guy drowning in TPS reports. And if there’s a better song than “Slow Down Chicago” to accompany a ride on the El, we haven’t heard it.

Canasta will be hard to ignore this month. In addition to its shows at Schuba’s they’ll appear on Chicago Public Radio’s Eight Forty Eight program on Wednesday morning and WLUW’s Full-On Friday show on the 7th. If you’re the impatient type, there’s audio galore posted on their website so you can get ready for tonight’s show with Kelley Stoltz and Page France.