Sound check: 4 new Chicago-area releases you need to check out

As we continue through the annual dead zone of winter show-wise (and, oh yeah ... pandemic), we're taking some time to highlight (brag about) more brand new releases you should check out from area artists.

Bellow & the Whale's 'Wild Dogs Howling'

Bianca Goyette and Julia Lee Norris of The Bellow & the Whale plotted an escape from Chicago as the pandemic started to lock down the city. Working remotely from New Mexico for the majority of the last year, they found inspiration in nature to finish work on the band's new EP, “Wild Dogs Howling.”

“The stress levels were inching up. I can just be in my room by myself puttering around. So the pandemic really brings out kind of the worst in me, because I'm just like I could do this forever,” said Norris. “But my partner, he was losing his mind. And actually our partners were working together, so it makes sense if we all kind of stick together and form a quarantine, since we work together and our partners work together. Just find a place where we can all be and be safe. And try to be as productive as possible while still preserving a little bit of a social element to our lives.”

The duo dances through genres in the five-song collection, each track part of a cohesive set while also featuring its own style. And a stop-motion video for “Regents Canal Waltz” is due out shortly, along with a campaign of images shot by California photographer Sarah Anderson to help create an enveloping sense of context for the music.

The cross-country isolation didn't prevent Goyette and Norris from exploring their Chicago connections, however. Their work (some pre-pandemic, some during) with local artists is on full display, with musicians including Adela Skowronski, Jonathan Marks, Kevin Ford, Tayiib Dauda, Alex Austin and Caleb Ramos prominently showcased on the EP.

Adem Dalipi delivers a love letter to memories of home in his new single, "Sixth St." Courtesy of Adem Dalipi

Adem Dalipi's 'Sixth St.'

Adem Dalipi has had music in his sights since picking up a guitar at the age of 9 and writing his own songs when he was 11, playing at the Chicago Blues Fest in 2016 and 2017 and performing around the suburbs with the young blues band The Instinct. The Belvidere-raised teen this week released the new pop-leaning single “Sixth St.,” a love letter to the town he grew up in that he wrote during the lockdowns.

“The time at home has allowed me to reflect on some memories, which further allowed me to find new inspiration to write about,” Dalipi responded in an emailed Q&A. “When I first started developing ideas for 'Sixth St.,' I began by writing about certain memories I made with friends in the town that I grew up in. Once I started writing the chorus, the lyrics had transformed the meaning of the song into a hometown love story.”

Recently Dalipi has been using his time to further market his music, creating the Adem Dalipi Street Team on Facebook, where members can get private livestreams and behind-the-scenes content. He will also be featured in the Millennium Music Conference, streaming from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the weekend of Feb. 26-27. Watch for posts about the recorded performance and more new music from the young artist.

ZORILA takes a new path with the grand new single, “Wayside.” Courtesy of Emma Zanger

ZORILA's 'Wayside'

Hailing from suburban Plainfield and downstate Sidney and Paris, Illinois, ZORILA had to work hard to carve out a niche in Chicago's music scene. And the band did. Before the pandemic, members were regularly playing their emotion-infused rock from debut album “Sidney” throughout the city.

But just as COVID-19 forced many of us to take a step back, ZORILA used that as an opportunity to grow. The band - Nate Finn, Anthony Hish and brothers Stew and Henry Arp - added a fifth member in Dave DeAngelis. The five began to explore a more mature sound, starting with last year's acoustic reworking of some of the band's favorites and culminating in this year's upcoming releases, which bring a more reflective feel and more indie sound to the mix.

Friday's release of the new single “Wayside” shows the band veering into that new lane. The song, rife with influences from pop-rock playlists of the late-'90s such as Goo Goo Dolls and Lifehouse as well as the more recent Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys, tackles the mental health aspects of living in a society essentially frozen because of COVID-19.

“I think during the pandemic, people are trapped with themselves and they're forced to really reflect on who they are as an individual and that's scary. They can't distract themselves as easily nowadays because they're locked in a room with themselves,” Stew said of the song. “I think having that self reflection is really important, but it can also be detrimental to your health. ... It's kind of just like looking in the mirror and learning to love the person you see, even the flaws.”

“Wayside,” which sports a dramatic build bringing the pieces of the song together, will be accompanied by an upcoming video telling the story of someone stuck in a personal limbo and contemplating suicide. The song emphasizes that there's always another option.

“The extreme kind of emotions associated with suicidal thoughts might not be as much of a personal thing as much as it is an experience we've had with people we know and people that we've met, and we just kind of want to shine a light on that,” said Henry, who wrote most of the concept for the song. “A big part of that stemmed from that feeling like you're on the right track of what you want to do with your life, but you feel like you might be just to the side of the road and you can't really get right back on to it. You feel somewhat lost, but you're on the right path.”

“Wayside” is the first 2021 release for ZORILA, which is planning to drop a few more singles throughout the year leading up to an album release, slated for the fall.

Broken Robots looks at when toxic relationships go too far with the new video, "Burn It Down." Courtesy of Broken Robots

Broken Robots' 'Burn It Down'

In a world that sometimes feels overrun with oversharing and loudly expressed personal opinions on social media, the husband-and-wife duo Kat and Tony Baker of Broken Robots know the power of the stories left untold. And while the title of the band's new single, “Burn It Down,” out earlier this week, suggests a powerful and explosive viewpoint toward our current situations, the song's lyrics celebrate a more subconscious escape from the struggles people are quietly fighting in the shadows.

“There doesn't necessarily always have to be a protagonist and an antagonist for a relationship to end or to kind of burn out,” Tony explained. “Because if you don't, it just becomes toxic. And it doesn't mean anyone's wrong, doesn't mean someone's a bad person.”

The Bakers, currently based in Wood Dale, are pros at self-reflection. Facing down a past of homelessness, heroin addiction, mental health issues and abusive relationships, the couple and bandmate Lonnie Phillips have found music to be a way to heal themselves and help others. The new single and video address just one facet of that in the hopes listeners can recognize their own struggles.

“It's based on a lot of different experiences,” Kat said. “Being from relationships like in the video, relationships where you have to struggle between whether or not you should stay or go or if it's worth keeping it or burning it down.”

The video, shot by Joel Lopez of Lumbra Productions, intercuts the band with scenes featuring actors Jessica Ebacher and Ahmed Forero, while the song plays to Broken Robots' strengths - gritty, rhythm driven and darkly appealing, a modern twist on Shirley Manson's post-grunge/alternative vibe from Garbage. Watch for upcoming releases from Broken Robots, including a new EP (and perhaps an outdoor release show) in the works for mid-May.

Brian Shamie is a Daily Herald multiplatform editor and local music junkie. Email him at, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter (@thatshamieguy) or Instagram (@chicagosoundcheck). Brian also keeps tabs on the local music scene at

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