Written and Compiled by Graham Johnson
Original Artwork by Amelia Edwards
Today’s Hits (stylized todayshits, a double entendre of pronunciation confusion) is James Swanberg’s stupefyingly prolific music project: his Tumblr consistently posted a new song daily between 2010 and 2013, and is still updated regularly with new tracks. Swanberg's output is so high in fact that he publishes regular “Best of” compilations on his Bandcamp — one per month. Curation in any kind of meaningful sense, especially by a third party for this playlist, is a little like digging through a giant haystack composed entirely of needles, trying to gage the shiniest or sharpest in the lot. He’s played before beside local live favorites Magic Milk, also featured on this list. Cleanly produced and tightly played, their 2012 record Mellows is one of their finest releases, and lacks Swanberg’s fetishization of crunch and clipping.
The Yolks are a member of Randy Records, a local label whose roster includes heavyweights The Memories (Gnar Tapes) as well as Vacation Club, Dead Ghosts, and Uh Bones. They’ve also had music put out on tape by Burger Records — a label which has been mind-numbingly omnipresent in putting their name and brand on the global DIY scene.
Trying to place a unifying umbrella over a regional scene is, of course, an endeavor unlikely to succeed, but at least many of these bands and their members know each other. Some have worked side by side, a fair amount coexist on different labels, and most are at least passingly aware of one another. All seem driven by the appeal of pre-rock rock'n'roll, a desire to subvert pop production, and a regular release schedule. With the exception of The Walters, most seem untouched by the sixties surf rock fad of the 2010s (the fifties is likely a better sonic reference point, a decade which holds a lot of the adolescent innocence and naiveté these bands espouse). There is, in all of them however, an embracing of melody and the pop song, albeit one often covered in and layered under distortion and grit. Delve into the world of the Chicago lo-fi: