Pop Stars, Hardcore Heroes, and House Legends: 10 Years of Chicago Reader Music Features, By Leor Galil, 166 pgs.

Chicago is the home of many well-known cultural treasures: Chicago pizza, Art Institute of Chicago, Naked Raygun, the bean, and Earth, Wind & Fire, to name a few. But what is it about the Second City that fosters action and creativity from the ground up? Throughout the pages of, Pop Stars, Hardcore Heroes, and House Legends: 10 Years of Chicago Reader Music Features, Galil uncovers aspects of the community within the city that have helped make it an artistic, political, and social mecca.

Galil is the music writer for the Chicago Reader—a local weekly that published this book as part of a series commemorating its fiftieth anniversary. Here he compiles the best (picked by himself) of his music pieces from the last ten years. A few highlights include Angel Olsen, Martin Sorrondeguy (Los Crudos, Limp Wrist), Chance The Rapper, and Bongripper. The genre spectrum is vast, but thanks to Galil’s utilization of history, culture, and his passion for the city itself, the collection of artists represented here works cohesively.

There is an unusually powerful sense of community suggested in many of the stories included here, and it seems certain that a lot of art, music, and activism is forged upon this support base. Chance The Rapper grew up in his West Chatham neighborhood. According to his father, he was an active part of the community: “I think Chance understands that we’ve gotta watch out for each other and he’s very respectful when it comes to that kind of stuff.” Likewise, Chance’s community supported him when he was starting out: a neighborhood friend donated studio time, and several of his early gigs took place in community centers. Chance also took advantage of community writer’s groups before he solidified his artistic vision.

Similarly, Martin Sorrondeguy takes Galil on a tour around the city to places where Los Crudos once performed, mostly in the ’90s, showing the effects of gentrification on places that were once important to the community. Many of the venues are now-closed community centers. Sorrondeguy discusses the Los Crudos goal to be a band for everyone, and how playing in sometimes-hairy situations was part of that. Meanwhile, Galil gives a brief history of the property, which in many cases documents the gentrification of the neighborhood.

Along with his outstanding writing skills, Galil’s focus on the communities of Chicago is part of what makes this book a stand-out. While there are likely many factors at play, the base of organized (and unorganized) support from family, lifelong friends, and other members of the community seems to help move the city in a unique direction, making it a cultural capital of the USA. –Buddha (Chicago Reader, chicagoreader.com)