January a month of slim touring and bleak bedroom hideouts no more! Tomorrow Never Knows hit Chi-town’s Schubas for the fourth year in a row, offering a hefty-hot five-day Midwest sampling of the nation’s fresh faces before SXSW beams it bat signal over indie land.

Day one exploded with Nashville’s Heypenny, who take their name from an old-English term in a song the key man’s mother used to sing around Christmas time. With that tag on line, the quartet was not very yultide nostalgic, but rather slathered in funk and robototastic glam. The synths were quirky and the vocals were harmonized chops, perfect for the dancing hipster set. They’ve got some soft spoken crooners washed in moog and cymbal sweeps, but kept it punchy for TNK, sticking to sarcastic tracks off their debut like “Parade,” quipping, “Just turn it up, oh yeah, crank it up/ it’s the shittiest rock n’ roll ever played but you’re singin’ it great.”


Heypenny

Montreal slow burnin’ psych rockers Young Galaxy hit the stage next, flaunting smoke machine “wizardry,” as frontman Stephan Ramsey laughed off. It fit the mold though, as on the popular single “Swing Your Heartache,” an organ-drenched four-step hanging its vocal head nice and low before exploding into evangelical bliss come chorus time when Catherine McCandless (tambourine/keys) chimes in with Chan Marshall soul. It was existential, hopeful stuff, perfect for the wintertime blues.


Young Galaxy

Hometown heroes The M’s carried the torch, guinea pigging an entire set of new cuts from their forthcoming record. I’ve never been a huge fan, on account of their hesitancy to stray from their harmonies. But the new tunage is prime capital M, sliding up the blue-eyed soul knobs and throwin’ down dual whistle fills that fit perfect on some dock in some bay. We thinks their Canada opening stint with Wilco this past summer rubbed off on ‘em, especially the feet-shuffling guitars.


The M’s

Mr. sloppy hi-fi, Floridian John Vanderslice brought the evening to a close. Though he said he flew over the Rockies, so he may have been out at his Tiny Telephone studio in Frisco recording some Death Cab. He sounds like Gibbard, too, all mopey-clever with clean, separated fills. Superfans were in tow, mostly girls, mouthing every word to every twisted dark pop melody. Tales about drugs creeping up downtrodden spines, John pleading, “Tablespoons full of codeine will put you right to bed…I wanted to make it on my own tonight,” before stabbing mean guitars. He’s a singer-songwriter threat, that if you haven’t tuned in to since his 2000 debut, you’re missing a piece of your cathartic side.


John Vanderslice

To show his lighter side, John hopped off stage with both his drummer and key man, and commandeered an indie darling sing-along – audio here – complete with tinker toy accordion and pure, yes, Sentimentalist, hope – “One, two, three, five…keep the dream alive.” Catch you at day two…and three…and four. But no five. Press is booked. –Gavin Paul, Photos by Gavin Paul

 
  1. what’s the young galaxy singer doing with her hand? 5 days of bands…that’s pretty cool.

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