August 1, 2012
Maybe you’ve already heard the excellent new album by Archie Powell & the Exports, as it came out back at the beginning of May, and they’ve been getting astounding press and done some touring. However, if you haven’t, allow me to fill you in.
Great Ideas in Action is the sophomore full-length from Chicago’s coolest party animals. These boys caught my attention early on for issuing some of the smartest pop-rock concoctions I’d ever had the pleasure of hearing. Lead singer/guitarist Archie Powell was blessed with a voice perfect for crooning out snarky pop lyrics — his nasal tone delivers the words with an audible sneer and when he belts, he belts with reckless abandon. With his band of Exports — bassist Adam, keyboardist Ryan and drummer RJ — Archie taps into a magic formula that is not being matched much in today’s indie rock.
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July 4, 2012
If Brent Stecker’s 2012 Sasquatch! Festival experience is any indication, the keyboards comeback in indie pop is stronger than ever this year, with juicy synths infiltrating stages worldwide. Chicago band Save The Clocktower (quite possibly one of the best band names ever, right after my own collaborative fantasy band name, Fear Boner & the Disco Police™) has been rocking this business for a few years, but has really outdone itself with its latest release, Through the Glass.
The band’s enhanced its rhythm for a decent portion of this set of dreampop tunes. It’s definitely got its chillout moments, but first it’ll have you grooving to some seriously sultry jams before closing with the “turn on, tune in, drop out” treatment.
While Save The Clocktower’s earlier albums relied more on an atmospheric quality, Through the Glass brings a greater element of danceability to the table and explores some higher registers, such as on lead single “Like That.” Some of the Massive Attack and Air-like moods from the band’s self-titled debut and Carousel are detectable in these new songs, but the increased tempos and poppy vocals put many of them in the camp of the ’80s synthpop funtimes brought forth by the likes of Gary Numan and Depeche Mode.
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November 11, 2011
Holy 1960s, Batman! Chances are if the psychedelic era of music and the early seeds of hard rock are the sparks that set your soul aflame, you’ll wanna strike a match on Soft Speaker‘s sophomore beauty, “Vortrobos.”
Throw in strong hints of post-punk and prog rock, and you’ve got a basic idea of the wonder you’ll behold with this album. Imagine a collaboration between Joy Division and Cream, and it’d probably not be too far off from what Soft Speaker brings us.
And what a wealth it is! The Chicago quartet released its debut LP, “I’ll Tend Your Garden,” last April and, in a recent interview, said they already have material for a THIRD album. Not to mention all of this is happening while adhering to an intriguing mythos that all their music is a modernized, electrified translation of tunes written in the 1930s.
Because of the deep bass grooves on opening track “Fiend,” you’ll naturally want to draw contemporary comparisons to the Arctic Monkeys. The bands share many influences, but ultimately take them in different directions. I find Soft Speaker’s catalog to be significantly more immersive, as a good portion of songs on “Vortrobos” exceed four minutes, and the music possesses an abstract quality that keeps it firmly anchored to the psychedelic era by which it’s inspired.
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