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Album Review: Tonight, Let's Pretend - The Great Unknown

Tonight, Let’s Pretend is a work of meticulous beauty. The Great Unknown, four local Philly gentlemen, have always been good at making folk rock something stimulating and fresh, which, considering how tired the outfit is, is no small feat. This full length album of songs is no exception, and demonstrates a fine level of craftsmanship. The orchestration of the multitude of string instruments is fantastic, smoothly forming that feeling of rolling the windows down on a long ride through the country. Banjoes, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and lap steel interplay for a dreamy southern twang - swelling and slowing with emotion. Military beats can sometimes be heard, and in other instances, a clear and driving force of drums as well as other percussions that give the music the perfect accent. A sense of loss can be found amidst the tunes in lyrics written by the whole band. “I’m Not Listening,” for instance, which happens to be my personal favorite song on the album, contains a message of loneliness after separation: “Earthquakes and hurricanes, the ruins spell your name, I’m not looking.” Heartbreaking lyrics such as these add a whole other element to Tonight, Let’s Pretend. The endearingly sincere vocals heard throughout this album make it so much more relatable, making you feel every word intoned. It’s an honest album, with no glitz or glam, but by relying on pure, raw talent, The Great Unknown have written one of my favorite albums of the year. myspace.com/thegreatunknownband - James Sanderson

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Artist(s) Who Deserve Your Friendship: The Chickens

The Chickens is the side project of Street Kyle with help from his FNU Ronnies bandmate Michael Reaser. Judging by tracks like “Inside the Chicken Den” and “Phocumolous vers. #1,” expect fuzzy barely intelligible punk-ish vocals with sharp angular post punk riffs. However, they are a relatively new band and looking to add more members so there should be plenty of experimentation as they search for their unified sound. I’m really enjoying the track “Untitled #1” which sounds like it was made to be the soundtrack for an updated version of Space Invaders by mixing a little ominous psy-trance with pulse pounding industrial. The Chickens’ debut release on cassette, The Chicken, is available on Fan Death Records. The invasion will not be televised! myspace.com/therealchickens - Q.D. Tran

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Weekend Warrior, December 25 - 27

So there’s been a lot of talk lately about how no one says “Merry Christmas” anymore, and everyone goes for the politically correct “Happy Holidays.” Who fuckin’ cares!?! Eat, drink and be merry because you get the day off! And once you’re over being cooped up in the house with your crazy family, head out to Johnny Brenda’s Saturday night for mewithoutYou. The Weiss brothers and friends have parked their vegetable oil running ’76 Charter bus, and will be celebrating the holidays locally this year. They’ll be joined by avant-garde art rockers Make A Rising, but sorry if you don’t have a ticket because the show is SOLD OUT, and so is the one on Tuesday at First Unitarian Church with both bands and last year’s Deli Best of Philly Poll winner Drink Up Buttercup. We hope that it’s a Happy Festivus for the rest of us! We’ll see you around the pole for The Feats of Strength. Johnny Brenda’s 1201 N. Frankford Ave., 9pm, SOLD OUT, 21+

It’s a slow weekend, but it should allow you to rest up for next week’s New Year’s festivities.

The Khyber (56 S 2nd St.) SUN South Broad

World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut St.) SAT (Downstairs) Jealousy Curve, Pawnshop Roses

North Star Bar (2639 Poplar St.) SAT The Groovement

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Lillie Ruth Bussey Jams on the One at North Star Dec. 23

Lillie Ruth Bussey (a.k.a. Bianka Brunson) is a singer-songwriter who's eclectic yet modest. Each tune (or "ditty," as she so aptly tends to call them) feels like it was handcrafted and endearingly gift-wrapped just for you. Certain sounds pervade throughout, like the chiming bells and piano tinklings, but most of the ditties are built around a single stark element, like the minimal, but warm, analog synth sounds of "Doors Locked," the more traditional acoustic guitar meditation of "Can't Help," or the ukelele-based "Heart You Protect." Her lyrics, personal and beautifully earnest, revolve around "love, loss, ghosts, America and a car full of monkeys." But as easily as she can tug at your heartstrings, Miss Bussey knows how to "jam on the one" which always turns her shows into a raging dance party where sometimes the line for lap dances starts behind her. It’s Brunson’s unique ability to instantly wow crowds that keeps the Deli staff coming back for more. Lillie Ruth Bussey will be joined tonight at North Star Bar by fellow earSnake labelmate rocker Shawn Kilroy and elegant folk outfit A Stick and a Stone. North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar Street, 9pm, $8, 21+ myspace.com/lillieruthbussey - Joe Poteracki

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Polar Ice Cap at North Star Bar Dec. 21

Talk about properly named artists to see when there’s snow outside! The North Star Bar takes the storm inside for a bit when Polar Ice Cap takes their indie alternative rock to the stage. The band is still fairly new to the scene, but with a sound that’s fairly reminiscent to the likes of Hum and Weezer, they may be on the right track. They’ll be joined by Machine Gun Joe. You might have caught them playing shows with the likes of The New Time and Levee Drivers before, and their rock music has a strong Neil Young influence with subtle hints of psychobilly. North Star Bar, 2639 Poplar St., 9pm, $8, 21+ myspace.com/polaricecaptheband - Bill McThrill

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