The Chicago music scene never rests. Here's the best of recent releases by musicians and bands located in our back yard.
David Singer, "East of the Fault Line" (The Sweet Science)
Now that New York's settled stagehand strike puts "August: Osage County," the latest Steppenwolf production, back in lights, Broadway audiences will have a chance to hear David Singer's music, as he originated the play's incidentals and songs. Back home he is best known as one of the city's best singer-songwriters, who balances wit and tenderness in everything he sings. His fourth album is beautifully evocative, with all instruments used to tastefully shed light on Singer's romance narratives and underdog laments. His lyrics beg closer inspection -- "your ribs are a birdcage/and your heart is a parakeet/it flutters on every beat/but you muffle the sound," he sings. Singer's melodic touches are deft and intimate. Like late-period Beatles, the hurts cut deep but sustain with sweetness.
The Buddyrevelles, "Don't Quit" (Solitaire)
"Don't Quit" might just be the mission statement that kept this Chicago-by-way-of-Eau Claire, Wis., trio together, considering this third album arrives seven years after their last. The Buddyrevelles make stylish, mature pop music anchored by densely interlocking guitars that chime with sweetness at one moment, flex heavily the next. At only 32 minutes in length, this new album is tailored for Built To Spill fans who cheered the recent Smoking Popes reunion. Despite the always-engaging guitars and sharp time change-ups, lead singer Aaron Grant softens the blow through warm vocals that ache with sincerity. Many bands wilt with sensitivity, for this one, it's a strength.
Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, "Scotland Yard Gospel Choir" (Bloodshot)
The Arcade Fire's gospel and punk confectionary has turned into a blueprint for many bands in their wake including Chicago's Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, a collective of musicians that makes music for swooning in large groups. Singers Elia Einhorn and Ellen O'Hayer rotate lead vocal duties for songs that, immersed with strings and horns, take frequent and fanciful detours that tend to be precious but oftentimes can lead to big pop revelations. The intricacies of the song arrangements never dissuade the fundamental heart of these songs, best captured on songs like (deep breath) "I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way for a Boy," which, despite its obvious overtures to the Smiths, makes the most out of the simple assembly of hand claps, bustling drum beats and yawning cellos.
Lou Carlozo, "Stick Figure Soul" (Feedback Records)
The many shades of classic pop music are encapsulated on this single album by the longtime and prolific Chicago producer-songwriter Lou Carlozo. This homespun collection of songs spans the pop gamut, including compact rockers ("Living in Fame"), rockabilly ("Elvis in the Sky"), twisty psychedelics ("Solomon Has Sung"), pop-rock urgency ("Raining in Hong Kong") and ballads ("Always"). Besides his finesse as a stylist, Carlozo also fills this album with his expressive guitarwork, particularly when songs call for the jeweled sound of the Rickenbacker. Hypnotic studio enhancements turn even the most intimate moments here epic. On "Myself and You," Carlozo builds his vocals with layers until the song's sentiment -- "what else can I do/to say what is almost through" -- earns canned, bittersweet applause.
The Bon Mots, "Forty Days and Forty Nights With the Bon Mots" (thebonmots.com)
There is no band that understands more the textures and tastes of the 1960s garage-rock stylists than The Bon Mots. In the tradition of bands like The Zombies, The Hombres, The Byrds and even Chicago's Ides of March, The Bon Mots continue with this second album to take those hallmarks and twist them into their own. Here, songs are not what they seem: "Reasons, Dear," with its bouncy hook and strutting beat, splits open with a guitar solo that squiggles backward and forward in psychedelic glory. These expertly crafted songs -- fizzy guitars, churchly organ, jagged beats -- suggest dark, restless moods that find release in hotshot melodies that do not relent.