The Van Goghs

The Van Goghs

"The dirty, garage-rock band has suddenly become and archetype for American music. The White Stripes and The Black keys have taken the formula to massive heights, but neither seem to be having as unapologetic of a good time as Chicago's The Van Goghs. Having shared stages with a true mix of genres (from Megafaun's artful Americana to Tin Tin Can's charging, dark indie-rock to The Hounds Below's enigmatic, old-school sound), The Van Goghs' self-proclaimed "American laundry washed in British detergent" can fit any palette, while remaining unique. Having a sound described by one reviewer as “Wilco playing the Talking Heads”, they mix a plug-and-play aesthetic with huge nods to 60's guitar-pop acts like The Kinks.

This year's Roman Candle EP is one of the strongest released by anyone locally, mixing almost symphonic production choices and peppy, upbeat harmonies on the title track with crunchy, pulsating riffs (“Wildlife”) along with the quirkily tender closer (“Shrinking Violet”). These are five tracks brimming with the best parts of the sunshiney AM gold of yesteryear, while keeping their performances modern and vital.
On 2011's Escape of the Jellyfish EP the band's songwriting chops shine through on the hushed "Our Best Plans", while the ramshackle "Penguino" is a fun, jangly stomper that still manages to cram a few brilliantly-layered vocals in before ending in a instrumental flourish a la Pet Sounds.

Eddie Franks

Hailing from Skokie, Illinois, Eddie Franks is using his passion for music to build a platform from which he can be heard. He began writing rhymes during his early teenage years and has now developed his own style and personality that will leave its mark in the rap game.
After years of writing raps, Mr. Franks (formerly known as CuFF) finally hit the stage for the first time in 2006 in Athens, Ohio, while attending Ohio University. He did many short performances and several freestyle battles at the Hip Hop Shop to gain respect and generate a buzz within the local community. Through the Hip Hop Shop Eddie met J Mei (Morgantown, WV), Tone Capone (Lexington, KY), and J Pesc (Cleveland, OH) and the four rappers formed the Iron MCs in 2008. They shut the mic down at multiple venues in Athens and performed in front of thousands at 6Fest in 2009. The Iron MCs released a music video for the track, “White Shoes”, back in 2010.
As for his solo career, Eddie released his debut album, "The Brain Storm"(under the alias of CuFF), in February of 2009. Franks’ single, “Slave to the Mic”, earned a spot on a compilation album for the Chicago-based record label, Windy City Records, in 2010. The album was produced by Youngstown, Ohio native, Brent Socie. Socie was also the main producer and engineer on the second album, "The End of the Beginning”, which hit the streets in April of 2011.
Franks graduated from Ohio University in June of 2011. In Athens, OH, he has performed at venues such as The Union, Casa Cantina, The Pigskin, and 19 South. In Chicago, IL, Franks has torn up the mic at The Elbo Room, The Tonic Room, and Subterranean. In February of 2011, Franks opened for Freddie Gibbs at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, IL. Eddie Franks is currently living in Skokie and working on a mixtape titled, “Life Is…” due at the beginning of the summer of 2012. Along with the mixtape, Franks will be releasing a music video for the track, “Somebody Else”, produced by DJ Coutz. Video produced by Cat Party Productions. Stay tuned for more to come!!!

More Gorgeous

The cover photo on "Escape from Terror Beach" - the debut LP from Chicago quartet More Gorgeous - is a shot of the band standing along Lake Michigan in the dead of winter. It's a drastically different scene in the summer, of course but the icy shore pictured here is a fitting representation of what you're likely to experience while listening to the 10 tracks contained on the record. The music is a dichotomy, in a way; frequently at odds with itself. More Gorgeous maintain a tone that is dark and moody with an underlying playfulness. They're aggressive and visceral but still appreciate rhythm and melody. They pay homage to the dive bars they've cut their teeth in without compromising their arena-sized ambition. It isn't uncommon for a song to begin with a beautifully lush soundscape, only to explode into complete chaos and stop on a dime. This is a loose-knit concept album about an unspecified, bayside universe that exists somewhere between fantasy and reality, night and day, Heaven and Hell. The thoughts, themes and images conjured up by these songs are unique to each listener but one thing remains constant and rather obvious - "Escape from Terror Beach" is a confident, meticulously crafted debut from a promising, young band.

Sporting a sonic kaleidoscope that includes intimate shoegaze, dark new-wave and driving dance beats, Chicago’s Vanarays have quite the pedigree for major success in the area. In a scene where bands seem chained to their genre, Vanarays are a consistently shape-shifting entity, yet the unique mixture of styles isn’t there as a hollow grab for every possible audience. This is a band of well-schooled multi-instrumentalists, clearly writing and performing on their own terms with a canyon-wide palette of slinky, ominous sounds.

Recording at a brisk pace, Vanarays have self-released two mesmerizing EP’s in the last two years, a testament to their nose-to-the-grindstone mentality. While similarities are clear between both releases - the band’s pension for studio experimentation and lush arrangements is apparent - there’s also a noticeable growth in just twelve-months time. 2011’s EP opens with the sublimely messy “He Said She Said,” led by static-heavy vocals and blazing drums, but the band brings harmonious alt-pop to the forefront on the jangly “This Thought Occurred to Me,” the slide-guitar assisted “Oh No” and closing number “Where We’re Going,” accented by a memorable riff, minor programming and charming, echo-laden singing.

From the opening keys of “Over & Over,” this year’s EP2 is a lesson in restraint and more defined songwriting. Sounding like a meeting between the low-key bedroom pop of American Analog Set and early 00’s post-hardcore pin-ups Sparta, the track is a great lead-in to the remaining five anthems, each making an impact from the very first listen. The active bass and hip-shaking rhythms on “Tell You What I Want,” the propulsive percussion of “Countdown to Ten,” the toe-tapping instrumental guitar dirge of “Tektoniks” - they all add to an already impressive blend of approaches and performances.

Diana Lawrence

Diana Lawrence is a singer, songwriter, pianist and music director based in Chicago. She has performed at venues ranging from Symphony Center and the Auditorium Theatre to the Green Mill and the Double Door. This year, in conjunction with Route 66 Theatre, Diana composed the music for NEXT STOP: a new Chicago musical. As a singer/songwriter, Diana has been compared to Ben Folds, Fiona Apple and Regina Spektor (Chicago Sun-Times), and her band, Diana & the Dishes, released their debut album, “Take A Picture” in August 2010. She released her second solo EP, “To: Aging Children,” in late summer 2012; it is now available on CDBaby, iTunes and Bandcamp, as well as Spofity and other streaming services.

Diana has become known for her ability to work in a wide variety of musical styles and with performers of all kinds. As a pianist, Diana has accompanied singers, instrumentalists and choirs, from young students to seasoned professionals. She also works regularly as an improvising pianist for theatre, dance, comedy, and performance poetry. Diana has been a professional musical director since her teens, and has worked with a wide variety of Chicago theatres including The Second City and Apple Tree Theatre. A classically-trained vocalist, Diana also gigs regularly with jazz combos and pop bands in Chicago. Originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Diana holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Michigan.



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