Tomorrow Never Knows Festival, Day 3 Preview
By Lizz Kannenberg in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 17, 2008 6:35PM
The addition of soul crushing songwriter Bon Iver makes tomorrow's TNK show a must see for Chicagoist.
Taking over headlining duties from Cloud Cult are reborn local retro rockers The Redwalls, and we're ok with that. The northern suburban foursome have been "the Chicago band that coulda shoulda woulda" since signing to Capitol Records in 2003, but all of that precocious promise never quite came to fruition on the major label. Dropped last year amidst a major house cleaning at Capitol, the band could have taken mainstream failure to heart and imploded like so many of its predecessors. Luckily, the same pluck that first caught Chicago's collective ear kept the Redwalls dedicated to releasing their self-titled sophomore effort, a collection of 12 insatiably catchy, appropriately fuzzy pop rock nuggets that finally captured the raw talent and aw shucks charm that Capitol sufficiently squelched with overproduction and listless gloss on debut De Nova. Many on the Chicagoist staff will fully admit to being former Redwalls haters, but this is a great record from a band that never let the court of public opinion change their own perception of what they could do.
Pennsylvania's Illinois is one prominent indie band. They're usually everywhere at once -- on tour, at SXSW, playing Lollapalooza -- yet they haven't been able to break into the closely guarded inner sanctum of Can't Do Wrong, where Sufjan Stevens sips mineral water with Win Butler and Jens Lekman. This is a solid, storytelling-heavy indie-folk band with tight songs and a banjo player for a frontman, but something is holding them back. Nevertheless, "Screendoor" is as catchy an "oh oh" chorus as you'll find on Internet radio.
Oh, there's more...
Ah, here's the one we've been waiting for. As you may know, we're head over heels in love with the A&R direction of Secretly Canadian and its partner labels. Whenever a SC/Jagjag/Dead Oceans release lands on our doorstep, it immediately moves to the front of our listening line. We're still waiting for this instinct to be proven wrong, because Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjaguwar) certainly didn't do it. His driver's license reads "Justin Vernon," but he's become less a songwriting man and more the embodiment of his adopted moniker (a take on the French term "good winter"). It's only appropriate that the season takes some credit for this sparse yet miraculously ambient music, as the tastes and sounds of the four months Vernon spent recording For Emma in a snowed-in cabin in central Wisconsin are very nearly audible on the record. It's ancient, it's comforting, and it's hopefully heartbreaking.
Louisville's Wax Fang have enjoyed comparisons to David Bowie's sharp vocals and dreamy glam shimmer, but this is a band seeking to hit something - hard. Self-described as "how rock 'n' roll might sound if it simultaneously existed in the past and future," there's no doubt that Scott Carney and company are channeling the might and fury of first-wave 'hard' rockers through a filter of disjointed modern nerd rock ... like they're concurrently pilfering from both Journey and the Silver Jews.