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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Bound Stems
The Family Afloat
Flameshovel

Rating: 8/10 ?


October 3, 2008
Finally, a moment of clarity for these previously too-busy-for-their-own good Chicagoans! Touted prior to their first release, Appreciation Night, as the next evolution of Pacific Northwestern groups like Built to Spill and Modest Mouse, and highly tipped as the next "important" band to emerge from Chicago's diverse music scene, the group's debut played out like a hodgepodge of interesting ideas mixed with overly busy and hook-less arrangements that almost killed their buzz on arrival. Fortunately they soldiered on and have delivered one of the finest indie-pop records of the year.

Better late than never, 2008 finds Bound Stems finally living up to their comparisons: The Family Afloat plays like the Fiery Furnaces recreating Modest Mouse's The Moon and Antarctica from memory. I mentioned their chops right? Whereas the last album came across like the more muddled and aimless moments of Fiery Furnaces or Frog Eyes/Wolf Parade songs (all bluster, arrangement - nothing memorable even if expertly played), this record comes across like the more finely tuned pop songs from any of the aforementioned groups.

Take the album's opener, "Taking Tips from the Gallery Gang": it begins with a shimmering, reverberated guitar and a building verse/chorus/verse structure that drops out for a catchy coda that mixes everything from synth-pop to hooky dub-inflected guitars for a thrilling conclusion. Where on Appreciation Night this arrangement would have been overwrought and collapsed in on itself, The Family Afloat finds the Bound Stems using their prowess for good instead of annoyance. The catchy lead single "Happens to Us All Otherwise" follows, and by the time the band is jubilantly shouting "She says he's got one foot out the door!" you're hooked. Two songs into the album and suddenly some of the band's indulgences have become a lot easier to swallow (funny how a little sugar makes the medicine go down, huh?).

Whether considered flourishes or indulgences, those moments are undeniably tucked inside The Family Afloat, but to get to some of the more revelatory tracks ("Winston," "Palace Flophouse and Grill," "Sugar City Magic") you have to put up with the occasional clunker. However, where Appreciation Night's flaws seemed pretentious and pointless, here a song like "Passing Bell" comes across more as an experiment that doesn't pan out (the fact that it still has a killer middle-section might help) than a complete loss. Make no mistake: comparisons aside, there is enough personality and skill here to keep any influences from devolving into imitation. They're simply a starting point, and like fellow Chicagoans the M's, the Bound Stems powers are only getting stronger. This band was clearly underestimated.

Reviewed by Cory Tendering
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Cory Tendering

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