Empires-How Good Does It Feel

A couple years ago Empires made it to the final four in a contest Rolling Stone held for fans to decide which local rock band should grace their cover. Normally that kind of thing would totally turn me off to a band (though much respect to them for having a loyal fan base) and I wouldn’t bother paying any attention. But, they were from Chicago so I figured I should at least take a listen to their album Garage Hymns. And it’s a good thing I did, because a couple of the songs on that record are good enough to make me angry they weren’t written earlier in my life so I had more time to enjoy them.

Now the band is back with a new EP called How Good Does It Feel, and rather than just a continuation of their previous work they take the music in a whole new direction. Equal parts mid-career U2 and early 90’s Brit rock mixed with some electronic flourishes, they’ve made a record that feels very new but familiar at the same time.

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Empires-Garage Hymns


It’s been just about a year since I first heard of Empires. I was at the bus stop waiting to go to work, flipping through the pages of the Red Eye-a mostly useless, but sometimes entertaining offshoot of the Chicago Tribune. Inside was a story about a local Chicago band that had made it to the final four in Rolling Stone’s “Choose The Cover” contest. The Sheepdogs were the eventual winner of this contest, based on fan voting. I thought it was odd that I had never heard of Empires before, and somehow I never really heard about them after reading the article. It’s as though the band existed only in that moment and then disappeared. That wasn’t the case of course, they were just laying low trying to finish their new record that came out yesterday.

For whatever reason I never followed up on the Red Eye piece, so until a few days ago I really had no idea what Empires sounded like. As I was browsing through Bandcamp I came upon a single that they put out called “We Lost Magic.” I believe it was the first single for the new album, and I thought it was pretty tasty. It sounded like a mix of The Killers and Born In The USA-era Springsteen. The guitars remain pretty restrained and the vocal performance by Sean Van Vleet is really what sells the number. It has a familiar feel to it, which helps draw you in. The fact that it’s really catchy will bring you back over and over.

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