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The Laureates, “Spells”
“A superb sophomore effort, this follow-up from Chicago pop-rock band the Laureates sounds like comfort food not only because of the smooth blend of ’60s rock and the ’80s bands that aped it (by track four, ‘Worry Worry Worry,’ we’re into some serious Paisley Underground revivalism) but because it was recorded on warm, fuzzy eight-track tape. Guitars jangle, but tightly, and the attitude is cool, but studied. Fans of the Smithereens or the Velvet Underground might find equal measures here to adore. (If only they were railing against capitalism, I’d think this was the second album we never really got from Manchester’s Easterhouse.) It’s bold and sinister and nervous and never quite settles down into a niche. Good stuff.”
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“While The Laureates have been kicking around for a few years (largely just around their hometown of Chicago), we didn’t come around to them until this spring, when ‘Don’t Lose Your Cool,’ a digital single released in advance of their second full-length, Spells, first turned our heads. Full of swagger and muscle, it sounded kind of like classic blue-eyed soul reimagined by a post-millennial indie rock mind that probably had witnessed the Britpop era firsthand. Timeless stuff, basically, with a stomping beat and a chorus that could’ve been either a plea or a threat. That sound pops up a few times throughout the course of Spells (out now on vinyl on Funambulist Recording Co. and digitally via Candy Dinner), but the surprise is that this is mostly a kickin’ garage rock record, recalling that period just when the garage was starting to become psychedelicized. The guitars spar against each other, twang vs. fuzztone, in a celebration of open-chord bashing tempered by occasional vocal harmony lines and well-placed keyboards. But what’s particularly engrossing about this album is the band’s restraint and control, which actually makes the whole thing a little more menacing. It’s obvious without even looking at a photo of the band that these guys are grownups: The musicianship is spot-on and the dynamic lived-in, and singer Chad Preston’s tenor has both the mature low-end response and the command of adulthood — it’s the voice of the kinda guy you’d want on your side in a bar fight.
The Laureates haven’t announced plans to venture particularly far from Chicago anytime soon, but if this description sounds like your bag and/or you want a fitting soundtrack for summer’s hundred-yard stare at the approaching fall, you can download Spells in its entirety for free from Candy Dinner right now.”