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No Expectations 030: Mineral
A short holiday newsletter featuring some gig recaps and a few new song recommendations.
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Between the holiday, the fact that last week’s newsletter was 4,000 words and 30 blurbs, and some pretty gnarly deadlines approaching for me, this edition of No Expectations will be a short one. There’s no main essay this week. I couldn’t muster a take on Twitter dying or GQ pulling an article that was critical of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav or the NASCAR Chicago Race or just how truly awful The Idol was. That’s OK though because I have some great new songs to highlight that’ll hopefully enter your regular rotation.
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New songs for the short week
Lane Beckstrom ft. Paul Cherry, “Mineral”
Lane Beckstrom has been a fixture of Chicago’s many music communities for over a decade. He played bass in the influential group Kids These Days (alums feature Vic Mensa, Liam Kazar, Macie Stewart, Nico Segal, and many more) and I’ve written about various projects Beckstrom has worked with like Marrow (RIP), the Juju Exchange, Resavoir, the Social Experiment, Knox Fortune, and others. I saw him play several mindblowing solo sets in 2019 and I’m happy some of those songs, which he made with Paul Cherry, are finally getting released. It’s been almost four years since I first heard it live but I still remember how good the hook on “Mineral” is.
Tobacco City, “America” and “Motorcade”
Chicago’s Tobacco City make woozy and timeless country songs that feel best experienced at a neon-lit diner or during a lazy day spent on a front porch. Fronted by Chris Coleslaw and Lexi Goddard, the band’s responsible for several untouchable songs like “Blue Raspberry” and “Never On My Mind” which first came out in 2019 and later appeared on their stellar 2021 LP Tobacco City, USA. This week, the band put out a pair of immaculate singles in “America” and “Motorcade.” Coleslaw sings on the caustically funny former song while Goddard tackles the understated but gorgeous latter track.
Slow Pulp, “Slugs”
Slow Pulp signed to ANTI- for their forthcoming LP Yard that’s out September 29. So far, the explosive “Cramps” kicked off the album cycle along with the just-released “Slugs.” The new song is pristine alt-rock that boasts Emily Massey’s unmatched skill at making some soaring choruses. The Chicago via Madison band has always been excellent and I’m stoked more folks are catching on.
Ratboys, “The Window”
Chicago’s Ratboys have a new album coming in August that was produced by former Death Cab for Cutie member Chris Walla, who’s worked on some incredible LPs like Foxing’s Nearer My God. This band has been remarkably consistent ever since they moved here but each single off the forthcoming The Window feels like a level up. The title track is effortlessly likable with driving guitars and an immaculate chorus. It’s not hard to imagine this album ending up on a ton of year-end lists with singles this good.
What I listened to:
Gig report: Wednesday, Squirrel Flower, and Tenci at Metro (6/26)
Sometimes you’ll see a gig and a band will mention onstage how long they’ve been on tour and you’ll think, “Oh my god, are they OK?” When I saw Wednesday play Metro, it was their 10th week on the road supporting their AOTY contender Rat Saw God. That’s a lot of time to be away from home. Most bands I know start losing their minds around week three so I can’t imagine how the North Carolina indie rock outfit must have felt at that point. That said, you couldn’t pick up on any signs of fatigue or burnout during their ripper of a set. Chicago’s Squirrel Flower and Tenci opened and were both great as usual.
Gig reports: Greg Freeman at Logan Square Arts Fest and Sleeping Village (6/25, 6/27)
Vermont’s Greg Freeman battled a torrential downpour Sunday at Logan Square Arts Fest and wildfire smoke Tuesday at Sleeping Village for what’s likely going to be my Gig(s) of the Summer. I’ve written a ton about him this year so I’ll keep it brief: Greg’s my favorite new artist in a long time. Compared to the seven-piece band he brought to Sleeping Village in February, his new backing outfit was a leaner-but-still-potent quintet but his songs from I Looked Out along with a few new ones still burst with intensity. Both shows ruled and I appreciate the tip from Greg to put maple syrup in my coffee. Bassist Lily Seabird will be playing a show for her own music in Chicago later this summer. That will undoubtedly be another Gig of the Summer.
Gig report: Major Murphy, Ulna, Seth Beck at Empty Bottle (7/3)
Every year, I have a band I will not shut up about. This year it’s obviously Greg Freeman but in 2013 it was PUP, and 2020 was the year of NNAMDÏ to name just a few. When Major Murphy put out their debut album No. 1 in 2018, I could not stop singing its praises. It’s one of those LPs that so squarely aligns with my tastes and coupled with the fact that this trio is from my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I became a Major Murphy homer real quick. They put out another album in 2020 called Access—it was great and expanded on their ‘70s-indebted classic sound with louder guitars and shoegaze-minded atmospherics. They haven’t gone on tour since 2019 so seeing them play these old and new songs at Empty Bottle was perfect. It was awesome to catch up with them and opener Ulna ruled as always.
What I watched:
The NASCAR Chicago Street Race (7/2)
As someone who has been a NASCAR obsessive for a few years (and an occasional contributor to their website), I am very relieved that the inaugural Chicago Street Race was one of the better Cup Series races this year. I have qualms about how former mayor Lori Lightfoot handled the deal but I’m happy the league made efforts to bring new fans here, especially on the south and west sides, showcased Chicago to their audience, and put on a solid event. Rain marred the day but made for some unpredictable and exciting racing. I hosted a small get-together of folks who weren’t too familiar with the sport and they all had a great time.
The Righteous Gemstones (Max)
This is the thinking man’s Succession. (I’m just kidding I still haven’t seen Succession).
What I read:
David Anthony on Rick Froberg (LINK: Welcome to Hellworld)
When you listen to Drive Like Jehu or Hot Snakes, what you hear is the sound of people who truly believed in rock and roll as the most impactful form of artistic expression. They worked in no singular mode, which is why everything they did felt innately theirs. In many ways, Froberg and Reis felt like the last two guys who never felt too cool to bow at the altar of rock and roll. They may have played a wildly distorted version of it, but they weren’t ashamed or shy about the fact that they were rock and roll devotees from the first time they picked up a guitar and would be until the very end.
Quinn Moreland on Julie Byrne (LINK: NYTimes)
Three years later, “Not Even Happiness” brought her music to a wider audience, propelled by Byrne’s dedication to nonstop touring. The success, however, generated some stress around her process. “While there is mysticism in creativity, there would be times where I was lost in a mind-set of only wanting the process to be mystical,” she explained, letting loose a bright chuckle before turning pensive again.
“When I was younger, I approached writing as something that occurred spontaneously, rather than through perseverance and the raw, honest effort of showing up day in and day out.”
Miranda Reinert on the Hold Steady (LINK: step one of a plan)
I’m not ashamed to have my music fan identity wrapped up in the people I’ve dated, but I think I was left in a weird spot with The Hold Steady when my relationship ended with the person who introduced me to them. Everything else we liked together— The Weakerthans and Jeff Rosenstock and The Menzingers— was fine. That stuff became mine, too, because I knew people who liked it as much as we did and they were my friends. Listening to The Hold Steady felt sort of impossible for a while because I think some part of me still felt like it wasn’t really for me.
The No Expectations Chicago Show Calendar
Thursday, July 6: Pardoner, National Photo Committee, Dangüs Tarküs at Empty Bottle. Tickets.
Friday, July 7-Sunday, July 9: Square Roots Fest (Lala Lala, Momma, Slow Pulp, Divino Niño, Superchunk, Real Estate, X, and more)
Friday, July 7-Sunday, July 9: West Fest (Grapetooth, Nick Hakim, FACS, the Hecks, Cafe Racer, and more)
Friday, July 7: Cabeza de Chivo, Spun Out, Lake (Cadien Lake James) at Thalia Hall. Tickets.
Sunday, July 9 and Monday, July 10: Japanese Breakfast, Frankie Cosmos at Salt Shed. Tickets.
Monday, July 10: Sun Organ, Options, Smile Machine, Harvey Waters at Sleeping Village. Tickets.
Tuesday, July 11: home is where, Smidley, OK Cool, Everybody’s Worried About Owen at Beat Kitchen. Tickets.
Wednesday, July 12: Good Looks at Empty Bottle. Tickets.