The British duo Ultimate Painting’s debut record came very close to being my favorite of 2014, and its second album, Green Lanes, is just about as good. Both records might seem a little languid and low-key at first, but don’t let the lack of loud feedback deceive you — there’s some great rock music happening here, with two guitars playing off each other and grooving in that classic style that goes back to the Velvet Underground. Jack Cooper and James Hoare trade off on lead vocals, often singing together in harmony, with the soft, unfussy style of English choir boys. And their melodies are just wonderful. These are some of the best-written songs of the past few years. As a live act, Ultimate Painting adds a drummer and bassist — and it also adds longer jams during some of its songs, stretching out those VU and Feelies moments. The band returned to Chicago on Thursday, Sept. 10, playing a delightful set at the Empty Bottle.
Ultimate Painting’s bassist on this tour is Anthony Cozzi, who was the leader of the Chicago band Radar Eyes, whose disbanding I lamented earlier this year. And he’s the guitarist in yet another great Chicago band, CoCoComa — which played Thursday night before Ultimate Painting. But Cozzi’s moving to the West Coast, so CoCoComa billed this as the last show it’ll play in Chicago for a long time. Two of its members, drummer-singer Bill Roe and guitarist Lisa Roe run the Trouble in Mind record label — which has been releasing garage and indie rock by many excellent bands, including Ultimate Painting. CoCoComa hasn’t been too active in the last few years, but Cozzi, the Roes and bassist Tyler J. Brock bashed out a lively bunch of songs on Thursday night for its “final-ish” gig. Don’t take your local bands for granted — you never know when they’ll call it quits or go on hiatus. I’ll miss CoCoComa, and hope they come back together eventually.
Another fine Chicago band, the Runnies, started out Thursday’s show at the Empty Bottle. After attending the earlier concert at Bohemian National Cemetery, I arrived at the Bottle just in time for the Runnies’ last few songs — fun keyboard-driven garage rock.