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Dec 11

Spells lands Album of the Year cred at WMFU’s Evan “Funk” Davies Show

Big thanks to The Evan “Funk” Davies Show on WFMU for picking The Laureates’ Spells as his #1 ALBUM OF THE YEAR!! Check out last night’s playlist to hear the show and see the rest of the list:

And as always, you can download the whole record for free at Candy Dinner:

Sep 11

Album Review: Chicago Sun Times’ “The Playlist”

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The Laureates, “Spells”
(Funambulist) ★★★

“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.”


Sep 11

Album Review: More Drive

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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.”

Aug 11

Album Review: Broken Hearted Toy

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“Note: This review previously appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.

The Laureates might have an elitist name but there’s no denying they elevate the art of garage rock on their second full-length CD. The 10 songs on Spells only take up a little over a half hour, but none of them feel short-changed. Well-crafted arrangements frequently burst into instrumental passages featuring the Chicago-based band’s intriguing blend of guitar styles.

Recorded during a year when The Laureates were also releasing a cover tune each month on their website, the CD often harks back to the original British Invasion. The social satire of ‘Life Of Leisure’ evokes The Kinks while ‘Changes, ETC’ exerts the power of The Who. Lead singer Chad Preston doesn’t vary his approach much, but the band backs him with ethereal harmonies, and his talky, melancholy vocals are well-suited to songs’ off kilter lyrics. ‘Robbers,’ a tale of homicidal thieves, is set to a Beatlesque arrangement, while the mutual paranoia of ‘Monitor Me’ bristles with punk intensity. Already critically acclaimed for their debut, There Are No More Gentlemen, The Laureates have beaten the sophomore jinx in style.

Aug 11

Album Review: babysue

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“We don’t normally review CD-Rs…but in this case there’s no actual physical CD as Spells is only being officially released on vinyl and as a digital download. If there’s one word we could use to sum up this band’s sound that word would be…unpretentious. Instead of clobbering their listeners over the head with complexity and technology, the folks in The Laureates offer a nice crisp clear dose of underground guitar driven pop. You won’t hear hundreds of overdubs here, the latest sampled sounds, or the coolest new synths. Rather and instead, these folks use the basics (guitar, bass, drums, vocals) to deliver their cool rhythm-driven pop/rockers. In terms of overall sound, what these guys are doing reminds us somewhat of The Feelies…but the songs themselves are markedly different. Lotsa cool guitar licks here and some really killer vocals that sound like it’s a real person (?!) singing. Cool rockin’ stuff…simply neat and totally hip.”

Jul 11

Album Review: Alternative Airwaves

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“The Laureates: No Kontrol

The Laureates are a great-sounding rock group from Chicago.  Their sound is probably best described as Indie/Alternative, or maybe Indie Rock.  They’re actually almost Sloan-like in their instrumentation, which is also quite good.  The group has been active since 2005, but – unfortunately for me – this is the first I’ve heard of them.

They have a new album out called No Kontrol, available for free over at the Free Music Archive.  I discovered them via FrostClick, whose description is a little more flowery than mine.  That’s okay – I’ve already admitted I’m terrible at writing up music reviews.  Moving on, No Kontrol is a 5-track EP and runs just over 18 minutes.  Short and sweet, it’s got the cool indie rock vibe I mentioned earlier, but also some punk influences.

I decided to see what else they have available, and saw that on FMA they have a live recording with WFMU’s Evan ‘Funk’Davies Show, recorded back in April 2010.  It features some of the songs found on the No Kontrol EP, but the live performance gives some of the songs a slightly different edge.  You can get that live performance from Free Music Archive, or stream it from the blog, as I’ve conveniently embedded it.”

Jun 11

Chicago Reader reviews Spells

The Chicago Reader dropped a review of Spells today in it’s Local Release Roundup. Here’s what staff writer Miles Raymer had to say about it:

“It makes me happy to see the ironic cover song begin to lose popularity with indie rockers. The concept’s condescending and full of quirk-for-quirk’s-sake bullshit and everything else that makes people hate hipsters—not to mention it’s completely tapped out humor-potential-wise. I’m guessing that not a single one of the dozen covers the Laureates recorded last year to give away on the Internet was ironically inspired. Their sources—Velvets, Yo La Tengo, Soft Boys—brought eccentric sonic visions to bear on sweetly simple pop structures, which is pretty much what the Laureates are up to, and if the remakes’ fealty to the original material laid the Laureates’ influences bare the group didn’t seem too embarrassed by it. The covers did well by their originators, and the new LP Spells does a good job of living up to their legacies. Recorded to an eight-track tape machine, the ten songs are noisy but uncluttered, bringing enough dirt and echo into the mix to keep things interesting but leaving the heavy lifting to the songwriting itself. As far as that goes, I’d put money on the wager that R.E.M. and Big Star were up for consideration for the covers project at one point or another, and although none of the songs jump out as obvious classics for the ages, I’m sure a lot of bands with similar inclinations could improve their shows by adding one to their set list.”

Jump over to the original article to check out the rest of the local releases for this week.

Jun 11

Spells out today – FREE download at!

Our new LP, Spells, is out today! You can grab the MP3s for free over at Candy Dinner, and you can purchase the vinyl over there as well. Go check it out here:.

Here’s what a few folks have had to say about the record so far:

“Lo-fi, brash and loud as hell, the Chicago band’s latest record proves that they can still write slick and sinister rock.”- AOL/ Spinner

“The Laureates stick to their strengths – rough-and-tumble garage rock with a power pop sheen. The songs on Spells are energetic and wild, but the band never lets things get too out of hand.”- Loud Loop Press

“Undeniable!”- Casy Meehan, Chicago Mixtape

Jun 11

Album Review: Loud Loop Press

Thanks to Richard Giraldi at Loud Loop Press for this nice review of Spells. Glad you guys like it!

Go here for the original »

‘On their second full-length, Chicago’s The Laureates stick to their strengths – rough-and-tumble garage rock with a power pop sheen. The songs on Spells are energetic and wild, but the band never lets things get too out of hand and know when to pull back. The result is crunchy guitars and punchy rhythms in quite an accessible format.

As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The last time The Laureates released original material was in the form on the snaggy 2010 EP No Kontrol. Its raw production worked for the most part, but occasionally would get in the way of the band’s more melodic moments.

On Spells, everything is a lot more even keel. Chad Preston and Adam Penly’s guitars are still upfront but don’t bleed through your speakers. Instead, they fiercely jangle while drummer Pete Gray keeps things steady with his tight pocket playing and bassist Crawfie Ward’s weaving grooves give the low end some real bounce.

There’s toothed brit-pop (“Robbers”), swinging, whiskey swelling numbers (“All Eyes Open”) and even earnest, soulful folk-punk takes (“Changes, Etc.”). But perhaps the most intriguing songs are the ones where you can pinpoint influences in a familiar yet oddly satisfying way.

“Don’t Lose Your Cool” opens with a Spoon-like guitar waltz that’s as recognizable as it is catchy. “Monitor Me” features revved-up mid-60′s riffage, and Spells concludes with a psychedelic nod to “House Of The Rising Sun” with “Moon Bitch.”

Maybe most importantly, The Laureates brim with confidence on the record, which aids the songs in sounding organically created rather than forced. And it pays off as Spells is a very solid and focused set of garage-pop tunes.’

Jun 11

Show Preview: Little Village (Iowa City)

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“Hailing from Chicago, The Laureates follow in the shape of other bands from that city like The Ponys. Writing pop songs that stray, displaying a great willingness to dive into the experimental/psychedelic realm but not in an overly aggressive way, The Laureates are a band making moves and gaining a presence in the larger American rock underground, appropriately so as they release their second album Spells later this month. This show will be one of three release parties that the band will have for the album (the other two are in Chicago and Cincinnati), and The Laureates will be joined locally by Sarah Cram & The Derelicts and Bats in the Belfry. Fans of more straight-ahead rock/pop bands that aren’t afraid of progression should find something that they like in The Laureates. A sample of The Laureates’ music can be found at the Free Music Archive.

Townies should note that the Laureates’ guitarist Adam Penly is an Iowa City alumni who was in Alto Heceta. Adam also plays with former Iowa Citian Paul Cary.”

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