*** (out of 4)
Kids these days. They spend so much time on that Internet, digesting overwhelming amounts of information, destroying their attention spans. It’s a wonder they can ever synthesize it into anything useful, am I right?
Chicago’s Kids These Days, an 8-piece musical collective, personifies the expansiveness and availability of music on the Internet with a horn section, piano and a rapper as the main vocalist. The group took home the grand prize at the Congress Theatre’s Next Big Thing competition in 2009 and has since gone on to play SXSW, Summerfest, and the local crown jewel, Lollapalooza.
Now, a year later, the band’s debut full-length arrives in “Traphouse Rock,” featuring both overt and subtle nods to a wide range of influences and tastes from all corners of music. It’s both an ideal and ambitious platform for the band to showcase classical training and underground persistence. The group has copious energy and talent, obviously, but it has patience that’s on display from track one, the melancholy “Intro(mental)” that features lounge piano over a screeching guitar ready to rip in the background, as the tempo builds to the frantic funk of “Ghetto.”
Sounding a lot like fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa’s cool, spoken-word flow gives all the songs a sense of pace, but it’s especially helpful during the high-strung songs--recorded versions of the group’s electric live performances. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy produced more than half the album, and his reserved approach make the undulations in tempo and sound more organic. The Kids’ horn section is the star of the album, though, punctuating many of its best moments and keeping it from ever lagging. The piano is its anchor on songs like “Doo Wah,” which riffs on the Pixies’ “Where is My Mind?” to lovely effect. It’s not the only blatant borrow, with bits of Arcade Fire, Lil Wayne and the Black Keys’ “Blackroc” littering the album.
“Traphouse” is a long listen at 15 tracks, many of which are similarly arranged and subject to some filler. But make no mistake – it’s a promising, sophisticated debut album for a band with a lot to tackle. The hints of consciousness and striking originality indicate these Kids have much more to offer.
Adam Lukach is a RedEye intern. @lucheezy
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