Suburban Heart has been one of my most highly anticipated records of 2013. Since Winterpop hit early last year The All-About have released a couple singles and an EP, including the almost perfect jam “Sadie Hawkins.” The build up to the new full-length dates all the way back to last year, but things have heated up recently with the release of two new singles, “Jessie” and “Whatever, Happy Birthday.”
The two new tracks are both great and really set the bar high for Zac Coe’s not-so-solo project (featuring Oliver Ignatius, Alexandre Da Silva, Gabby Ambrosio, and Layne Montgomery). I had nothing but faith in the album, and it came out even better than I could have hoped. Gone are the charming Killers references, replaced by smart Springsteen cues and mentions of a couple of the Boss’s hits in the lyrics. It’s a more mature record than Winterpop, but no less fun.
The album deals a lot with growing up, losing touch, and the difficulties in trying to go home again. Zac might be the most nostalgic early twenty-something in the world, but he seems ready to let go of the past by the end of Suburban Heart. One facet of life that gets a lot of attention is growing apart from the friends you had as an adolescent, and I think the chord struck here is the most relatable on the album.
On the sprawling “Nashville,” Coe and a friend lament their waning time together knowing things can’t stay the same forever. There’s a certain comfort in knowing someone as well as we know our closest friends as we grow up, and an uneasiness comes when we leave that behind. When he sings “All I need is a full heart to get where I’m going, but I want you to be here when I come back,” it’s a bittersweet reality we’ve all experienced.
There are a lot of precious memories relived here as well. On the title track Coe sings “Don’t you wanna take me home? The only roads that we’ve ever known are from your house to mine.” The song is about star crossed lovers who are too busy to for a relationship and how every second without the other person is a moment wasted. This is the first instance where you feel the sonic similarities with Winterpop. The horns and piano used here aren’t new to The All-About, but they fit so well that its hard to complain.
I love the opening of “Jessie.” It might be my favorite 45 seconds of the whole album. With just a synth and his voice, Coe reminisces and it feels like our own memories. “I could see in the way you moved your hips it was nearly dawn, you were feeling a little bit anxious. Remember how you tried to dare me to run the light because nobody would see when I drove you home? So every girl just grab a boy, lately I’m losing my voice, baby. Singing along, with the radio.”
In the biggest surprise of Suburban Heart, “Lyla Garrity” opens with beautiful strings that give way to a Peter, Bjorn, and John-like whistling. The outro of the song finds the two components coming together perfectly to create a magical moment of poignancy and acceptance.
Suburban Heart may not sound like its a giant leap from Winterpop, but lyrically and thematically it is a great step forward. Zac uses his own past to assemble songs that are so universally relatable this album will probably be translated in more languages than Beowulf. The album comes out on Tuesday May 21st, and will be available on Bandcamp. You can also find all of The All-About’s previous releases there, and you should download all of them.
When Holdfast disbanded about 18 months ago, I feared the worst. They weren’t the greatest band in the world, but they were good and getting better. Now two separate bands, Lamp and Terriers, I think everyone can agree that we are all better off for the split. Danny Cohen and Easton Gruber started the latter, joined by Connor Boyle (a solo artist as well), Nora Leahy, and Brandon Hunt.
Music has been trickling out from Terriers for a while now. They put out a really good single called “Black Hole” in September and “Waste Time” has been available more than a year now. Though both are strong entries in their catalogue, neither is really a precursor for the new album. Working with producer Dan Duszynski (Gold Motel, Any Kind), Terriers have created an album which is impossible to peg down in one genre and exceeds expectations.
The band deftly mixes Pablo Honey-era Radiohead and John Vanderslice on the opener, “I Don’t Care If The Sun Is Shining.” Noticeable immediately is Cohen’s improved vocals. A good voice in Holdfast and on the earlier singles, he’s come into his own as a singer and only gets better with multiple listens.
“New York,” the lead single off the album, is the most mainstream-radio type song on UAS. It doesn’t have some of the elements that I really like on other songs from the record, but it does appeal to a wide range of listeners. Plus it doesn’t hurt that it’s a really well-written song. I love the line “New York, I was once humbled by your greatness but now enlightened by the lateness in your answers. Baby, I have rid you for the better. For Chicago or whoever I may find.”
Getting as far away from that adult contemporary feel as quickly as possible, the next three songs swing from Elvis Costello folk to Earth Wind & Fire funk. “You Belong To Me” comes as a very pleasant surprise. I definitely didn’t expect such a dance-y, fun track to follow up the ballad “Fall In Love,” but they fit together seamlessly. All players do an amazing job of jukin and jivin through this number, especially Boyle on the drums.
The talent stays front and center on the Todd Rundgren-like “You Belong To Me.” As if demanding to not be forgotten, Nora Leahy takes the spotlight on “Like I Always Do.” She delivers a beautiful vocal on the country-tinged ballad that increases the vulnerability already displayed in Cohen’s trill.
“Probability Theory” closes the record and contains what is probably my favorite lyric: “I wouldn’t call myself charming, I’ve got a lot left to learn. But I’m not the worst on this farm team, and I still get spurned.” It’s a well-constructed tune, but the genius comes right at the end. Like Abbey Road‘s “The love you take is equal to the love you make,” you’ll always remember these final words on Mutual Admiration Society, “I guess I’ll count myself lucky for what little I do comprehend. Keep my chin up and stay plucky, cause I don’t want it to end.”
I think after you hear the album for yourself, you’ll have a similar feeling. But, you’ll have to wait until next Tuesday to do that. Terriers will be playing a record release show next Wednesday, May 22nd, at Schubas in Chicago. They’ll also be coming by Handwritten Recording studio to record a Hasty Revelations session with us, and we couldn’t be more excited.
Have you ever been sitting in your office, moments after being yelled at for using the wrong format for a report or after being told that the conference call you stayed late to be on was cancelled, and thought “I could write a whole album of songs about this BS.” Well, don’t waste your time because 8090 has beat you to it. Covering all the minutiae of the daily grind and the highs and lows that come along with it, Work Music tackles the day-to-day obstacles of surviving in an office with humor and keen observation.
This album has been out for a while now, but it took me a good number of spins before I really think I got it. The duo of Andy Metz and Seth Williams pay tribute to their west coast roots with the music, and somehow they make songs about work fun. Right from the beginning you get an idea of what you’re in for, when Williams says “Racks on racks on racks? No I got boss on boss on boss. So many directors givin me directives it’s a full-time job not getting lost.” If you’ve never worked in an office-setting this album may not be for you, but if you have then you will easily relate to the rhymes.
I thought these guys were a little bit younger than me, but a couple influences I picked up on tell me otherwise. I know Andy a little bit, he has two other music projects that I’ve come across over the past two years. Seth I don’t know at all, only met him in passing once, but they seem like your average late twenty-somethings. The first few times I heard Work Music I knew there was a west coast vibe, but I think I’ve narrowed it down to a few bay area artists that are the main contributors to 8090′s youth. Digital Underground, Rappin 4 Tay, E-40, and Too Short. If you like any of those artists, (and who doesn’t love Cocktails?) then you will probably enjoy hearing this modern take on that early 90′s style.
I was nervous when I saw the announcement about a rap album from Andy that this was going to trail into Lonely Island-type territory. Thankfully it isn’t anything like that. The comedy on Work Music comes in the form of real situations and responses rather than bizarre or ludicrous fantasies. They do a good job of mixing between fun bangers like “Raise Up!” and the more true-to-life tracks like “Resignation” and “City Lights.”
There are a few ingredients that make up most rap albums: drugs, sex, money, and murder. Work Music features three of these, and is no worse for leaving out the fourth. In the end it’s all about being the best you possible, giving your all to everything you do and taking life in stride. It’s easy to overlook because the beats aren’t as big as Kanye’s, and the lyrics aren’t as titillating as Danny Brown’s, but I’d much rather hear a positive record that makes me feel good than one I feel bad dancing to.
Last year I made a list if the top 15 rappers of all-time. I stand by it today, but after listening to Prisoner Of Conscious I may have to re-think it a little. I didn’t include Talib Kweli, but noted in the comments that if I had one more slot, he would share it with Mos Def. I left him off the list because honestly there was a gap between Beautiful Struggle and now where his albums just fell off a bit. They weren’t bad, but I didn’t feel like they were up to his potential.
He did some great one-offs in that time, including awesome appearances with Paper Diamond and Break Science. He wasn’t exactly coasting, but maybe he was spreading himself too thin. However, when I saw him live at Double Door a few weeks ago the man on stage was re-energized, vital. He really came out with a “take no prisoners” attitude and just destroyed the audience.
Some of the highlights from the set were new songs off Prisoner Of Conscious, and my anticipation level went sky high. I was finally excited about a Kweli record again. It’s out today and does not disappoint.
The featured guest list on Prisoner is like a who’s who of hip-hop: Busta Rhymes, Curren$y, Kendrick Lamar, Nelly-even the Portuguese singer Seu Jorge makes an appearance. The biggest surprise comes from Busta Rhymes-his verse on “Rocket Ships” is unbelievable. Kweli has always been smart about who he surrounds himself with on recordings. Usually on rap records I feel like there’s too many collaborations, but it feels right on this one.
Lyrics have never been a problem for Kweli, so it’s no surprise that they’re mostly brilliant on Prisoner. When it comes to rappers who wrote about the real problems facing our nation and the world, no one does it better than Kweli. He still manages to make it fun, too. Maybe that’s the most impressive thing about this record-it doesn’t feel like a lecture even though he’s schooling us as always.
For me, the top tracks off Prisoner are as follows: “High Life,” “Upper Echelon,” “Come Here,” and the album closer “It Only Gets Better.” The delivery on the final track in particular is excellent. Kweli jumps back an forth between pop culture references an old world adages like they’ve always belonged side by side. Marsha Ambrosius provides a beautiful voice to sing the chorus as well.
Prisoner Of Conscious dropped today, and I hope people pick it up. It pleases me to no end knowing that a rapper who has never had huge sales can still thrive in the music business and make the music that he wants to make. I’m looking forward to many more great records in the future.
It’s been a while since I really dug into Secret Colours. I’ve heard bits and pieces, but the last time I really paid attention was back in 2010. I covered their release show at Beat Kitchen where they were celebrating the release of their single “Watch The Drone.” The group was fuzzed out and psychedelic for sure. I was standing next to Tommy Evans’ dad for the set and he couldn’t have been more proud.
Since then Secret Colours have toured extensively and released a couple more records. Live, you could tell they knew what they wanted to sound like, but it’s tough for young bands to turn that desired sound into reality. On Peach, the new album coming out at the end of the month, I think they’ve finally captured what they’ve been aiming for. I credit producer Brian Deck and the bands organic evolution for this great leap forward.
Secret Colours is still a trippy psych rock band, but they’re approaching it in new, interesting ways. The fuzzy guitars have given way to a cleaner sound, almost Dark Side Of The Moon-ish in a sense. They seem to be putting more emphasis on creating good songs instead of just making it strange for strange’s sake.
This is greatly illustrated on the song “Blackhole.” It’s a slow burner that builds and builds until a swirling guitar solo hits almost four minutes in. The band shows a great deal of patience and trust in the listeners. In not sure try were mature enough a couple years ago to display that kind of restrain. Peach is filled with great examples of the band growing up and figuring out their strengths.
On “Lust” they go for a bluesy rock sound reminiscent of some of The Monkees’ headier tunes. The bass line is hellacious and really sets a groove. Lay on top of that the echoing vocals and the surgical precision with which the guitar is blended in and you have yourself a really fun late summer night song.
It always makes me happy when I hear Chicago bands making strides toward creating work of the highest caliber. Secret Colours are certainly on their way. Their only listed shows for now are this Saturday, May 4th, at FeelTrip Studios and the record release show June 8th at Empty Bottle-both in Chicago. I’m sure more will be announced closer to the albums release date.