Promoting sprawling new album, Cass McCombs plays Empty Bottle Friday

Cass McCombs’ sprawling recent release Big Wheel and Others is the latest in a line of excellent and intriguing albums from the enigmatic singer-songwriter. Boasting 19 songs, Big Wheel also has the distinction of being by far the longest album McCombs released. On Friday, you can catch him at the Empty Bottle. Judging from his recent set lists, McCombs is going back years, drawing from all his albums and usually playing no more than three or four new songs in a night. This intimate setting should be a perfect venue.


Song in focus: Arcade Fire’s ‘Afterlife’

One of the best songs on Arcade Fire’s latest album Reflektor is Afterlife, an epic piece of work that has to be on a short list for best tracks of the year. It’s a song that evokes emotion and deserves an equally moving film to go with it. The Spike Jonze-directed video for the YouTube Music Awards early last month didn’t quite do the song justice. But this recently released video produced by the Creators Project and directed by Emily Kai Bock is really stunning. Watch it below.

Bock has made memorable videos for other artists from Grizzly Bear to Grimes to Majical Cloudz. Read an interview with her here.

Jon Hopkins plays stacked electronic lineup at Lincoln Hall

London producer Jon Hopkins is getting a lot of attention for his latest album Immunity, and the notice is well deserved. Hopkins built his career working with others, notably as Brian Eno’s co-producer for Cold Play’s Viva La Vida. On Immunity, Hopkins actually makes a standout electronic album in a crowded field of decent artists.

Hopkins is the middle act of a lineup including headliner Clark and opener Nathan Fake, all playing Saturday night at Lincoln Hall.

Swearin’ plays Chicago’s Township

If you’re a fan of Waxahatchee (like me), chances are you’ll like Swearin’, the band led by Allison Crutchfield. Allison is the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee. The musical styles of the two projects are not exactly the same (though they’re not radically different, either).

Where Waxahatchee may remind you of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville, Swearin’ summons another ’90s icon, the Breeders. Neither of these Crutchfields are knockoffs, but the mid-90s reference points are obvious. Born in 1989, the Crutchfield girls began playing in bands together in their teens in Alabama.

Certainly, Allison Crutchfield and Swearin’ deserve to be more than a footnote to Waxahatchee’s great release this year, Cerulean Salt. Swearin’ made a fine album itself with the recently released Surfing Strange.

Swearin’ plays Township Thursday.

New music: Magik Markers release ‘Surrender to the Fantasy’

Magik Markers’ new album, Surrender to the Fantasy, skews from the hushed Mirrorless to the raucus Bonfire. And there’s plenty of other good stuff between. The new album was just released this week.

Watch a new video from Chicago’s Radar Eyes

Chicago’s Radar Eyes is about to rerelease its 2012 self-titled album next month on cassette! Check out this video for Side of the Road.

Barbez hits Chicago’s Hideout Saturday

Brooklyn’s Barbez is an avant-garde outfit led by guitarist Dan Kaufman. On Barbez’s latest album, Bella Ciao, Kaufman draws from an ancient Roman Jewish musical style to pay tribute to the resistance movement during the Nazis’ occupation of the Italian capital.

Barbez plays Hideout Saturday night and that should be a very intriguing show.