Album Review: Friends of the Bog- Lyra

Chicago’s indie folk rock band, Friends of the Bog is following up their 2016 EP with a debut album Lyra. The album, named after the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, explores many correlating themes such as love, loss, death, time and longing. It’s comprised of songs that instrumentally, feel optimistic and upbeat, but are filled with poetic lyrism touching on dark and slightly sinister topics.

A round of finger picking on guitar opens the album with the song “Darkness”. The piece tells a familiar story of losing love and the awkwardness of moving forward. While the lyrics fall well into the song’s title, the instrumentation builds in a lively manner with bright synth lines and an upbeat percussion section. It’s easy to get lost in the sounds but words such as “my darkness became your darkness and it filled you up with regret” bring a heaviness to the tune.

The melancholy subject matter continues with “Always”. The slower tempo of the piece makes it dreamy with a hint of mandoline underlining the female vocals. Again, the instrumental lines give the illusion of happiness, but the good-hearted feeling is sunken with lyrics like “I’m an empty vault and you cleared out the last few riddles inside”. This faux positivity is upheld in “Faith”, a song pushed by strong rhythmic lines and a catchy chorus of “Faith/Faith/ Faith, I am telling you to go/ Go/ Go/ My mind is not your home, no.”

There’s a shift in energy as the album’s title track approaches. Two female vocals take over underlined by finger-picked strings. A thudding bass drum comes in to close out the first verse as the vocals reach for a higher register. The sound is both dark and pretty as it transitions into the accordion opening of “Dead Friends”. Right away the rawness of the lyrics standout; “James’ mom died/ didn’t want to write a song about/ felt fucked up to cash in on somebody else’s pain.” The song goes on to explore the realm of death and how people stay in the minds of friends after they are gone. It’s a sweet song propelled by vocal harmonies into an instrumental buildup of mandoline, guitar and accordion.

 

The following track, “What Got You Here”, falls flat in comparison with the rest of the album, but things pick up again with the bass line leading into “Who Really Cares”. It’s a quick moving piece with a fun layering of vocal lines and an uppity rhythm section. Something in the drive of the song is reminiscent of Americana music, making a smart choice leading into “Hudson”. The vocals of “Hudson” are silvery with the slightest hint of twang as lyrics taper off at the end of each line. It’s bright and hopeful for a song about time, wondering if memories are all that is left.

The album falls back into despair with “Barton Springs”. The heavy moving bass line and single chord strums on guitar keep an eerie tone over the piece. Instrumental lines are added into the build-up of the chorus “You hold my hand when the telephone rings/ Sarah’s brother drowned in Barton Springs”. Even with its minor spookiness, it’s a catchy song with a good groove.

Closing out the band’s first complete record is “You Didn’t Deserve This”. It’s one of the more beautiful songs on the album as the male vocals calmly sing over drones and light instrumental pings. Guitar and percussion lines slowly come in with the second verse, really filling out the sound before it fades out to wrap up the record.

Friends of the Bog’s next show will be on Friday, November 17 at Quenchers Saloon. The night will also include performances from Laura Wolf, Lizdelise and Boo Baby.

Live Review: Two Sets of Eyes/ Gazebo Effect @ Tonic Room (11/13)

Monday nights in the middle of November are often dreary, but thanks to performances from Two Sets of Eyes and Gazebo Effect on Monday, November 13 at Tonic Room, this particular night was more than just tragic cold and rain.

The night kicked off with the progressive rock trio, Two Sets of Eyes. Having had their first performance only a month ago, it’s evident the band is new to playing live shows together as the three took some time before falling into the groove of the show. While the band may be young, the musicians are well-seasoned artists with a great sense of musicianship over their respective instruments. They ran through songs from their upcoming self-titled debut (out November 25). The vocals on a few of the songs were rough, but most of the pieces where instrumental heavy, creating dynamic arcs with guitars and synth. A standout tune was “Sunshine, You’re Standing in My Sunlight”; an eerie and almost psychedelic instrumental piece that builds around an ear-bending synth melody.

It’s rare to find a band with a kickass guitarist who understands the art of soloing. What’s even rarer is finding three such guitarists on a single stage as part of the same band. Each guitarist from the nights’ second band, Gazebo Effect, shared lead duties and did an amazing job coloring the songs with intricate riffs throughout. Not only did the band exhibit amazing guitar lines, the rhythm section, as well as the vocals, were superb. The band played the songs from the 2017 EP Turtle Rock, with a standout piece being “Laraway Drive” as it encompasses everything the band does right from killer guitar riffs, steady rhythms and catchy choruses. Aside from providing a rich sound, Gazebo Effect’s stage presence exhibit passion and energy without overdoing it.

Two Sets of Eye’s next performance will be on Saturday, November 25 at Quenchers Saloon.

Gazebo Effect’s next performance will be on Friday, January 26 at Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Live Review: The Million Reasons/ The Shades @ Township (11/2)

Sometimes the best shows in Chicago are the ones played during the week in the back rooms of small bistros and bars. This was precisely the case on Thursday, November 2nd as a small touring act opened for two local bands at Township located in the heart of Logan Square.

The night started off great with a solid performance from The Hacky Turtles of Grand Rapids, Michigan opening for The Shades of Chicago. The local pop trio shined as always with their beautifully arranged 3-part harmonies and catchy tunes. They treated the audience to a few covers including their creatively original approach to Chance The Rapper’s “Sunday Candy” while also highlighting songs from their recently released record Miles Made of Inches. 

Headlining their first show The Million Reason took the stage last. The 4-piece rock band took full advantage of their space, utilizing every inch of the stage from the back corner to the right side runway. The second the first note sounded, the jittery crew bounced about in true rockstar fashion, breaking guitar strings and all. Standout pieces included “Hooked” opening with its catchy guitar riff before leading into Scott Nadeau’s grungy vocals singing “You’ve got me hooked/ with just one look,” and “Earlybird” with it’s driving rhythm section and a touch of southern rock twang. As The Million Reasons closed out their set, the crowd cheered for an encore. Nadeau announced the band had already played through all their originals so they opted for a rendition of Wolfmother’s “Joker and the Theft”, ending the night with the same energy and enthusiasm in which they started.

Album Review: Sedgewick- Collapse

Roughly two years after the release of their debut EP Gardens, a record praised by the local press for its dream-pop melodies and folk instrumentation, Sedgewick (Sam Brownson, Oliver Horton and Jake Hawrylak) has released their first full-length album Collapse. The new compilation perfectly responses to the bands’ early work, building from the calmness of the first album into fully orchestrated pieces complete with a large range of sounds and colors.

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Live Review: Xoe Wise Band/Panic Priest @ Emporium (10/26)

Emporium Arcade Bar in Wicker Park kicked off the Halloween weekend with two solid musical performances on Thursday, October 26. The night included sets from Chicago’s Xoe Wise Band and Panic Priest, both embracing the energy of the holiday with their individual dark takes on pop music.

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Album Review: Luke Underhill-The Left Side

Chicago-based singer songwriter Luke Underhill has partnered with producer Mikal Blue (known for his work with Colbie Callait and Jason Mraz) for his 7-song EP The Left Side, out August 18. The release follows two self-released projects from 2015, Atlas and Atlas Unplugged, along with a 2016 self-produced single, Too Good for Me”.

The Left Side explores a realm of young love and loss with the 21-one-year old musician delivering fairly simplistic lyrics, yet nonetheless catchy songs. Within each piece, there are moments of artistry embodied with potential that will undoubtedly blossom with age and experience.

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Album Review: Moonrise Nation- Glamour Child

It’s hard to believe the finely crafted songs on Glamour Child are the debut works from the indie pop trio Moonrise Nation. The band, comprised of Emma McCall on lead vocals and guitar, Arden Baldinger on keyboard and Eva Baldinger on bass and cello, is as talented as writers as they are musicians. Each piece is finely crafted into theatrical displays of artistry that are not only instrumentally pleasing but also lyrically fulfilling.

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