Best Chicago albums of 2012
Year (Drag City)
After the spare and somber Disturbing the Air, it's refreshing to hear Azita Youssefi with a band again. Her autumnal chord choices are almost as unusual as her voice.
Josh Berman & His Gang
There Now (Delmark)
Cornetist and curator Josh Berman rounds up a terrific cast of local improvisers to build towering, sometimes teetering structures from old school source material.
BJ the Chicago Kid
Pineapple Now and Laters (M.A.F.E MUSIC)
This skillful, soulful release was largely slept on, which is a shame. Any conversation about Frank Ocean or Miguel should include BJ, or Bryan Sledge. His Kendrick Lamar–abetted take on War's "The World Is a Ghetto" is proof. Sledge may not live here anymore but so long as he calls himself "the Chicago Kid" we're claiming him as ours.
Pre Language (Kranky )
Disappears exits the Autobahn and adds some heft to the rhythm section on this sinister set of art-rock. "Fear of Darkness" may be my favorite song yet from the handsome foursome.
Dylan Ryan's brassy sextet turns in another concise and catchy distillation of postbop, with four-part front line harmonies that'll make you miss Chicago, the band.
Half Way Home (Bathetic)
Tender, intimate folks songs for the 21st century from one of Chicago's most promising young voices. Simultaneously comforting and haunting.
Phil Spirito's ornamented chamber-folk instrumentals carry the charming, homespun feel of incidental music, but never feel like they should be relegated to the background.
Mike Reed's People, Places & Things
Clean on the Corner (482 Music)
Reed's grown into one of the most reliable bandleaders in town, a fact this set confirms with bustling postbop, reflective ballads and everything in between.
Silk Prison (Forge Again)
If you've only seen Tight Phantomz live, this long-in-the-making double album may surprise you. 36 songs touch on everything from balls-to-the-wall boogie to backporch folk.
Piñata (The Leaf Label)
One of Chicago's most enigmatic bands drops its most accessible record yet, simplifying its knotty, quirky postrock, if only slightly. Frontman Aaron With's vivid imagination remains a potent source of inspiration.