Referencing our idols in art is a dangerous road. Go too far with the homage and you run the risk of being accused of bland recreation, but reign it in too much and you run the risk of not capturing whatever magic that piece of art may have had to begin with. Famed music critic Lester Bangs once said, “Personally, I feel that real rock ‘n’ roll may be on the way out, just like adolescence as a relatively innocent transitional period is on the way out. What we have instead is a small island of new free music surrounded by some good reworkings of past idioms and a vast sargasso sea of absolute garbage.”
To be clear, none of this is to say that the musicians I’m highlighting today are unoriginal whatsoever – far from it! However, there is no denying that the nostalgia runs deep in both these acts, and I believe it’s worth recognizing. As far as I know there is no truly original band in the area if we take the most literal usage of the word, and if there was it would probably sound pretty off-putting to us. The way we use our influences to craft something new, exciting, and unique is what sets us apart – that’s where these two bands shine. After all, Lester Bangs did also say “All humans are the same sex, except albinos”, so we should probably take his words with a grain or two of salt.
Sleeping Jesus released their debut EP Perrenial about a year ago, and it’s very rare that a band’s first release is so fully formed, so singular in sound. The jangly, soft wash of clean guitar, the occasional swell of organ, and the soft melodic vocals of frontman Nick Elstad all recall the sweet radio pop of the 50s and 60s. However, it’s the more modern touches he adds that really grab the listener. The playful surf guitar line that appears in Goddess and the easy groove that follows are a perfect example. The closest contemporary I can come up with is critical indie darlings Girls, but while Girls’ find restless teenage mania in their music, Sleeping Jesus are content to just sit back and enjoy life, letting beauty come to them rather than madly hunting for it. Elstad just finished recording a new EP to be released this fall, with a single coming later this summer. You can find them at Icehouse on June 21st.
Goddamn. Private Interests rock. Never do I want to live in the aforementioned Lester Bangs future of rock being a ‘phase’ if that means no more bands like Private Interests. To be staunchly, proudly rock in a time when Ed Sheeran’s frankly disgusting rap-folk single ‘Shape of You’ drags the radio even further down the deep chasm of hell isn’t a status of genre, it’s a statement. And state rock they do. The band is power pop at it’s finest, but less Big Star-balladry and more The Replacements-ruination. Both tracks on their recent split with Chicago-ites MAMA are stellar, demonstrating a deep understanding of their chosen genre and a clearly defined sound. The band aren’t all retro swagger though – the band plays tight and clean, and their rhythm section lends a restraint that eschews the all-in approach of many of their influences, like the moment around 2:30 into Finest Hour. No shows on the books, but tune into their Facebook page for updates.