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.

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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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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Album Review: Ratboys- GN

Ratboys’ sophomore album GN (which stands for ‘Good Night’) is the result of a sound instrumental rock band mastering the art of storytelling. Their 10-song compilation, which received an early release on June 27, 2017 from Topshelf Records, encompasses a special mix of personal anecdotes and memories from vocalist Julia Steiner and guitarist David Sagan.

The album begins with eerie vocals speaking over the light finger picking of a guitar, eventually leading to the opening lyrics of “Molly”. The story explores the relationship of two people, one possibly not feeling enough for the other. There are no repeating lyrical lines, yet the underlaying melody is catchily memorable.

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Album Review: Layla Frankel- Tame the Fox

Chicago-raised singer-songwriter Layla Frankel set off with her Little Martian guitar in the fall of 2015 to travel Europe. The following spring, Frankel spent two months hiking 600 miles on the Israel National Trail. On her hike, she carried a children’s book, The Little Prince. It was the combination of this book and these travels that the inspired the singer’s debut album Tame the Fox, released April 25, 2017.

The 6-song release, produced and arranged by Frankel and recorded by Josh Richter, is a beautiful collection of bluesy folk tunes filled with rich tones and rhythms. It features a number of talented musicians such as guitarist and bassist Dave Hildebrand, drummer Robert Rashid and Eddie Ganet on keys.Continue Reading

Album Review: Leo Kidd- Marion

Musical medicine is the best cure for an emotional breakup. As a woman, sometimes nothing assists with coping more than good music from a badass woman. This is exactly what Leo Kidd delivers on her debut EP Marion with a blend of powerhouse vocals and charging piano chordsEach song feels full of heartbreak, but also strength and the boldness to move on.

The EP opens with a simple piano melody quickly followed by a steady beat and the theatrical vocals of Leo Kidd in “Fool Me Once”. The song tells the relatable story of learning the true colors of a former mate as the start of the chorus poses the questions, “Who do you think you are?/ What happened to the man I knew?” What makes this song great, from a storytelling standpoint, is the strength of the female character. She is not pleading, but instead asserting confidence with lines such as “Why can’t you see I’m the baddest bitch you’ll ever know.”

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