On their new EP, Medium High, The 1900s, a seven-piece from Chicago, navigate the same Belle and Sebastian/Neko-era Velvet Underground pop territory as their first two albums. Everything here sounds gorgeous: lush string backing, wonderful harmonies between guitarist Edward Anderson and Jeanine O'Toole, Caroline Donovan, and Andra Kulans (yes, three female vocalists), swirling fuzz guitar ("A Face I Know"), Mike Jasinski's keyboard lines, Tim Minnick's assured snare-heavy drumming. It all sounds so very grand, which fits a band that recorded its first album before it ever played a live show. Though apparently they gave some damn fine performances at SXSW a year or so ago—so fine in fact that one Spin critic called them "Band of the Day." Check out this live video from WGN (not sure if I buy the Fleetwood Mac comparisons, but alright). Medium High will surely keep the buzz going for the 1900s, and rightly so: They're making some of the best indie pop out there right now. Despite their pleasant sounding song titles—"A Face I Know," "Making Love in Summertime," etc.—their lyrics are far darker. Take, for example, the second verse from "When I Say Cohen": "Listen up, I never knew I'd ever be so sad / I've been touched in places by very scary hands / If anyone should ask me I'll tell them I don't know / I've been leaving all my clues like footprints in the snow." Well then…
Highlights here include the Camera Obscura-sounding "Collections" and "Age of Metal," which opens with gentle piano and acoustic guitar but builds to heavy drum and fuzz guitar overtaking Anderson's "Ohh, ohh, ohh"s. It's the middle of the EP, with "Age of Metal" and "A Face I Know", where the real guitar crunch comes in.
Recommended situations for listening to Medium High: Long drives on the 101; NYC coke parties; dancing, swirling, dancing!
"Age of Metals"