Chicago's John Hughes III has operated Hefty Records for nine years. The independent label has released albums by artists such as Telefon Tel Aviv and the Aluminum Group and has built a following among listeners seeking out music in that catchall category of "postrock," a tag rooted in the early-Nineties experiments of fellow Windy City artists such as Tortoise. This might seem an unlikely career choice for Hughes, son of the famed Eighties film director who made Molly Ringwald a star. Instead of following in those footsteps, he has played in bands since he was a kid, including his solo project, Slicker.

Slicker's debut, 1998's Confidence in Duber, referenced intricate and glitchy German techno with Teutonic-sounding names like "Dahm Foos." But for the third album, We All Have a Plan, he creates a much more accessible sound. It bears an urban, Midwestern stamp, from the superfly funk of the radio-friendly single "Knock Me Down Girl" to the hip-hop rhymes on "Decorate Your Walls" (courtesy of Elzhi from Detroit's Slum Village). It may help that the bulk of collaborators are from the region, including Motor City jazz players Wendell Harrison and Phil Ranelin and Chicago vocalist Lindsay Anderson of the band L'Altra. This new direction may alienate some fans, but it'll likely gain Slicker a broader audience.

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Tamara Palmer