Chicago’s Twin Peaks have gleefully embraced change ever since their 2010 formation to become one of the city’s most essential rock bands. With their fourth album Lookout Low, the sonic and creative leap the five-piece takes feels like a total revolution in their youthful sound. The 10-track effort was recorded and cut live over three weeks in Wales with legendary producer Ethan Johns. Thanks to the band’s dedicated approach to rehearsing and demoing out their material before hitting the studio, the songs burst with life and the undeniable magic of their live show.
2016's Down In Heaven connected with audiences in a big way, seeing the band taking over late night on CONAN, while landing festival slots at Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo & Coachella, and tours supporting luminaries like Spoon, Cage The Elephant, and Wilco.
Armed with four excellent and collaborative songwriters, each member upped their game on Lookout Low. Guitarist Cadien Lake James’ mind-bending opener “Casey’s Groove” is expansive and reassuring, bassist Jack Dolan’s “Unfamiliar Sun” is patient and affecting, guitarist Clay Frankel translates heartache into catharsis on the title track, while multi-instrumentalist Colin Croom reaches new performing heights on “Ferry Song.” Lookout Low shows that Twin Peaks is less a band and more a brotherhood, one that’s endured for almost a decade.
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Chicago-based Post Animal are a band of brothers. Though they formed in 2014 and just began touring in 2017, their affinity for slick riffs, pop hooks, and psychedelic tendencies join them in a bond much tighter than their years suggest. Initially formed when childhood friends, bassist Dalton Allison and guitarist Matt Williams, met keyboardist and guitarist Jake Hirshland, the band’s sound began to take shape when the three enlisted some more pals from both the Chicago music scene and through their time working at local burger joints. Rounding out the band’s lineup, Post Animal is completed by drummer Wesley Toledo and guitarists Javi Reyes and Joe Keery.
Like most band’s in Chicago’s inclusive music community, Post Animal got their start playing DIY basements and small rock clubs. With their wavy and warped first project 2015’s Post Animal Perform The Most Curious Water Activities EP and then 2016’s memorable singles collection The Garden Series, the band showcased mesmerizing and infectious pop melodies. Between their impressive early releases and their wild live shows which feature the band members sharing lead vocal duties, Post Animal have unquestionably solidified themselves as one of Chicago’s most exciting up-and-coming acts. Having taken that intensity across the country, touring with bands like Twin Peaks, Wavves, White Reaper, and more, Post Animal have found they are happiest when playing to a room full of fellow music-lovers. As a result, they are road tested and stronger than ever.
The Chicagoans’ debut full-length When I Think Of You In A Castle, out 4/20 via Polyvinyl, is the product of six friends creating music they love, even if the circumstances weren’t always in their favor. “Before this album, we weren't sure what the future of the band was going to look like. I was considering moving to Los Angeles and Joe [Keery] was off filming Stranger Things. We didn't know where we were all going but we knew we wanted to make an album with all of us in the same room,” explains Toledo. Being the first time all Post Animal members recorded together, the album’s collaborative spirit is more-than-evident throughout its 10 carefully curated tracks. Even Keery, who’s no longer an active touring member of the band due to his skyrocketing acting career, was integral to the album’s inception.
In the summer of 2016, the band retreated to a lake house in Watervliet, Michigan to record When I Think Of You In A Castle. For a week and a half, they tracked the LP—all while realizing they weren’t really alone in the house. According to the band, a ghost dwelled there that would jolt them awake from naps and even ended up with a guest appearance on the album. Toledo explains, “There’s a moment on ‘Heart Made of Metal’ where I hit the cymbals and, for some reason, it was recorded in reverse. We think that's the ghost.”
Of course, not all of the magic on When I Think Of You In A Castle can be pinned on the supernatural. Following the lake house trip, the band finished the album at their house in Chicago with Allison perfecting the mix over the next year; even while on their 48-city summer tour in their beloved van (RIP Shannon). Take the first single “Ralphie,” which finds Keery and Allison gleefully trading lead vocals while sounding like what would happen if Jeff Lynne fronted Thin Lizzy. Though Post Animal’s live shows have long proven that swirling riffs are the band’s bread-and-butter, it’s earworms like “Ralphie” that show how easily they can churn out an infectious pop melody.
“Ralphie” isn’t the only song that finds the band sharing lead vocal duties. In fact, each band member contributes vocals like Hirshland’s mesmerizing turn on “Castle” or Williams’ punchy performance on “Heart Made of Metal.” Other songs, like the dynamic “Gelatin Mode,” shift from a lighthearted experience in dueling lead guitars to a face-melting dose of sludge with ease. It’s such a transportive track that when Keery menacingly intones, “Below, traveling slow out on your own / Your mind gelatin mode time to explode” it’s a welcome invitation.
Elsewhere, a longtime live staple “Tire Eyes” finds new life on the LP. It’s a swaggering ode to a timeless classic rock song with Allison’s falsetto beckoning, “So forget about your day and let this record float you away / As your mind is winding, finding cause to be easy.” The finished album, which was mastered by Jake’s brother, Jared Hirshland, is a truly collaborative continuation on the band’s kaleidoscopic and sprawling early beginnings.
But most importantly, When I Think Of You In A Castle is a testament to not only the brotherly connection that these friends share, but also to the power of collaboration between like-minded musicians who just get one another. “Before we recorded it, it was an uncertain time for us as a band, but we all just had a magical time at this lake house in the middle of summer,” explains Toledo. Almost impossible to describe, the Post Animal bond is best observed while foolin’ at the merch table after a sweaty show. They look forward to seeing you there and, naturally, becoming your new best friends.
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Already celebrated as the “Heart of Chicago’s Music Community” (Noisey) by both fans and tastemakers alike, OHMME (aka the duo of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart) amalgamate the aggressive and the meditative on their bold debut full-length album, Parts.
Still in their 20s, Stewart and Cunningham are both classically trained musicians and are established players within the Chicago music scene. They are especially involved in performing and working for venues within the local experimental music scene. They’re constant collaborators and have recorded and toured with homegrown acts as varied as Tweedy, Whitney, Chance The Rapper and Twin Peaks.
Cunningham and Stewart are multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriters with a penchant for two instruments in particular. “The band started because we knew we could sing well together and we wanted to make some noise with the guitar,” says Cunningham. Stewart elaborates, “Sima and I are both trained classical pianists and we know many of the sonic spaces keyboards have to offer. Since we were interested in experimenting and creating something different from what we had both done in the past, we chose guitar as our outlet for this band. We wanted to create both new and uncomfortable parameters for ourselves to force us into a different creative space.” These guitar-heavy experiments are sometimes earthy and resounding, at other times shimmering and buzzing—swirling around the duo’s expertly crafted vocals while creating a chaotic bed of harmony. Cunningham’s smoky alto complements Stewart’s higher-register croon, all underpinned by the restrained yet highly inventive polyrhythmic percussion of drummer Matt Carroll. Think Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian-era Dirty Projectors.
Enlisting fellow Chicago cohorts Doug McCombs (Tortoise), Ken Vandermark and cellist Tomeka Reid, OHMME recorded and self-produced Parts from Cunningham’s Logan Square home studio, Fox Hall. With Parts, OHMME “wanted to capture a moment in time instead of something perfect.” The results are thrilling: from the pure pop opening track “Icon” to the candied sludge of “Peach” to the skipping rhythms of “Parts” and the dusky closer “Walk Me,” Parts draws from influences as diverse as Kate Bush and Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets to jazz and improvisational music, making for an electric debut listening experience.
This range from sweetly shiny 2-minute hypnotic bangers to woozy and sprawling 7-minute long tracks boasting moodily atmospheric wafting guitars and piercing feedback shows a band colliding thoughtfulness and creative ingenuity to produce music as unique as it is earworm-worthy. With Parts, OHMME manage to organically marry a breadth of divergent styles into an album that is cohesive, daring, and distinctly their own.
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