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MUSIC REVIEW: An unexpectedly good month for music

September was a weird month.

I began the month as editor of Sauk Valley Media, living in Freeport as I had for most of my years since graduating college 30 years ago. I ended the month living in Springfield. And for the first time in more than 2 decades, I wasn’t a newspaper editor. I was the director of the Illinois Press Foundation.

In between, I said goodbye to a number of great friends at Sauk Valley Media. So, not only was September weird, it was difficult.

As always, a constant amid the chaos was music. But, alas, September was a weird month for music, too, because the best stuff came from some unexpected places.

The best of the month was a debut record, “Tell No One,” from Washington, D.C., power poppers Bad Moves. The band had released a decent EP in 2016, but the leap taken with “Tell No One” couldn’t have been forecast. The bouncy, catchy guitar-driven pop from Bad Moves will be right next to The Beths’ “Future Me Hates Me” in the running for best power pop record of the year. Unexpected.

Equally unexpected was the jump Scottish alt-rockers Fatherson took with their third album, “Sum of All Your Parts.” With it, Fatherson joins Biffy Clyro, Frightened Rabbit and We Were Promised Jetpacks among Scotland’s rock royalty. And speaking of We Were Promised Jetpacks, their September release, “The More I Sleep the Less I Dream” was the band’s best and most consistent since their stellar 2009 debut.

And speaking of returning to form, Welsh thumpers The Joy Formidable did and more so with its September release, “Aaarth,” the band’s most interesting release since the sparkling “The Big Roar” in 2011.

Canadian crunch rockers The Dirty Nil are new enough that no return to form is needed, but they certainly upped their game with the release, “Master Volume,” which is best played at, well, maximum volume.

Shifting back to the U.S., California rockers Joyce Manor deftly mix emo, punk and melodies on their outstanding sixth “full length,” “Million Dollars to Kill Me.” I put full length in quotation marks because the record’s 10 songs span only 22 minutes. The 10 songs from the band’s best record, the 2014 “Never Hungover Again,” clocked in at 19 minutes.

September brought two more “A” grade records, “Amends” from Brooklyn indie rockers Active Bird Community and “The Pits” from Canadian art bunkers Lonely Parade.

So, even for me, who likes a lot of bands you’ve probably never heard of, September was full of surprises – many from bands I’d not heard of, or barely heard from, before. That makes it a good month musically.

September also delivered good new stuff from Seesaw, a female duo from Freeport (though they officially claim Madison, Wisconsin, as home), Restorations, Hippo Campus and Mini Mansions. It also brought new singles from two of my favorite bands, Quiet Company and White Lies.

And, finally, it brought more new stuff from one of my favorite bands you’ve probably never heard of, Satellite Stories. The Finish alt pop band is calling it quits, and is going out with some catchy new singles.

You can catch all of these bands in more in a Spotify playlist that’s shared along with this story online. It’s free, my gift to you.

Oh, hey, why am I still writing for Sauk Valley Media when I no longer work there and I live in Springfield (well, Chatham, actually)? Because I love music too much to give up writing about it, at least for now. And because I want to continue helping you discover good, new alternative rock bands.

Until November. …

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