8 Local Music Acts That Will Knock Your Socks Off

UPDATE: Fill your weekend playlist with these awesome local acts. This story was originally published on February 15.
This year's Grammys got us thinking. From Jack White's mind-blowing (if slightly controversial) performance with Ruby Amanfu to that rousing all-star cover of The Band's "The Weight," musicians the world over brought their A-game — including a few from Chicago. Because, let's be honest: The Windy City has always harbored a wealth of musical talent — and we've got just the list of local up-and-comers to prove it.
If the tunes are any indication, these bands will be in the musical spotlight for many years to come. Who knows? You might even see one of our picks up on that Staples Center stage someday. Glass Lux certainly has that whole rocker-chic thing down, and Makeshift Prodigy is well on its way with its latest Atlantic records release. Catch them all right here while you can — these bands are going places, people!
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The Kickback

These brothers and South Dakota transplants (Billy and Danny Yost) found their musical soul mates on Craigslist after moving to Chicago. Now a solid quartet, The Kickback easily conjures up comparisons to Weezer with its sweater vests and self-deprecating humor — the guys will even play a stellar cover of “The Sweater Song.” But it also has plenty of its own material to speak of. Its latest single, “Please Hurt,” is infectious enough to have a completely unfamiliar crowd singing along at the top of its lungs, and singer Billy’s emotionally ridden pipes at the end of its show-closing tune “Violently Carsick” gives us serious goosebumps. We’re fans. Big ones.

Photo: Courtesy of The Kickback
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Makeshift Prodigy

These guys just released their first album with Atlantic Records in November of 2012, but Makeshift Prodigy has been wowing Chi-Town audiences with its experimental sound for years. While it’s difficult to pigeon-hole, there’s no denying that it’s big: Sweeping crescendos of theatrical noise make Makeshift one of those bands that’s good in the studio but absolutely incredible live. Lucky for us, the band loves to tour, and it's loyal to its hometown fans. We highly recommend catching it here before it sells out stadiums across the nation — it’s not a matter of if, but when!

Photo: Courtesy of Makeshift Prodigy
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Mike Golden & Friends

Mike Golden leads this troupe of rebel rousers with a booming voice and an infectious clap reminiscent of acts like Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men, and The Lumineers. Steeped in bluegrass roots with a touch of funk, the group is not afraid to get loud, (“1987” and “Building an Army” being prime examples), and that’s just the way we like it. In fact, we say turn up the volume — Golden is a star, and he deserves to be heard, loud and clear!

Photo: Courtesy of Mike Golden
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Glass Lux

We’ve got a confession to make: We’ve got a major girl crush on Glass Lux singer Emily Morse. A dead ringer for Minka Kelly with a badass sense of style, she’s one of those chicks you’d kill to be friends with. Electronica fanatics will have her vocals on repeat with “I’m a Machine,” a track she mastered with her partner in crime, local producer/DJ Alfanso Mayen (Perfect Kiss, Blacklight Saints). Between Morse’s crooning and Mayen’s production, this twosome takes its sound beyond Chicago city limits, creating nothing short of Euro pop fierceness.

Photo: Courtesy of Glass Lux
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Can we say stage presence? Magnetic and immediately likeable, there’s not one Comasoft song you won’t find yourself tapping your foot to, though we certainly have our favorites (“All I Wanted,” “Last Day Parade,” and “10volt” amongst them). Holding its own alongside fellow darkly romantic acts, like Kill Hannah and Orgy, these local rockers are true nostalgics at heart, softening their vibe (just a touch!) with keys borrowed from the ‘80s. Bonus? Comasoft also knows a thing or two about style. Singer Jay Ramirez has likened a red-soled microphone stand to a Louboutin, and we hear guitarist Adam Savin has a thing for Prada bags (or at least it says so on its website)!

Photo: Courtesy of Comasoft
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Republic of Lights

Republic of Lights takes its moniker seriously. Not only does this local group adorn all its stage sets (and studio space) with festive strings of light, it brightens up each venue it plays with its unpredictable onstage antics. Airborne piñatas? Check. Flying limbs? Check. Accordion jam sessions? Check. You never know what you’re going to get at an ROL show, but then again, that’s half the fun of attending! We’d expect nothing less from a band with a song titled “Lolita Ford.” P.S. Did we mention the band is really good?

Photo: Courtesy of Kelly Dress
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Another local sibling act (vocalist Jeremy Mederich also plays bass while brother Bryan takes on the drums) that rounded out its chops with the addition of a third bandmate (guitarist Jonathan Brubaker), Luster has been featured on everything from America’s Next Top Model to ESPN, and it’s no wonder: They’re as versatile as they come. Moody and melodic, Luster has a song for nearly every emotion. Upbeat tracks like “Triumph” make you genuinely happy to be alive while slower jams like “One Cheap Love Song” are perfect for rainy days of brooding. Feeling angsty? Try “Showing the World.” Keep it up, boys — we’re all ears!

Photo: Courtesy of Nate Burrell
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California Wives

You might remember California Wives from its big Sharpie commercial in 2012: The office supply company caused a frenzy of Youtube searches when it chose to air the band’s uber-catchy track “Purple.” Now MTV-featured artists, the group has opened up for big-scale acts such as Stars and Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order), but these “California” boys have not forgotten their Midwestern roots — they’re still totally down-to-earth enough to grab a drink at Smart Bar after catching a show at the Metro. Talented and modest? Sounds like a class act to us.

Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Kazun

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