First Coat have been playing out in the Chicago area since 2000 under various lineups and monikers (formerly Drexel). They self-released their debut album in 2002 and have since acquired a few more friends to fill some holes after losing a few co-founding members in 2003. They also belong to a close-knit collective of musicians local to the Chicago area, chronicled and compiled on the Mr. Hyde record label. According to the band Move Like Sparrows has them focusing on some new musical terrain.
So we find the band opening up the album with the instantly catchy ‘Try Again’. The ringing guitar lines and lead singer Conor Loughridge’s slightly melodramatic vocals mesh together well. During the chorus, Conor hangs on every other word, adding a bit of cleverly played suspense to the song. When I first heard this song on CDBaby I fell in love with it. Ace! (You can check it out on the monthly mix for May.)
‘Butterfly’ and ‘Artichoke’ both feature playful guitar with a slice of twang. The latter has apparently spent some time high on Cincinatti radio station WOXY’s charts. Judging from the members they share the charts with, this is no small feat and no surprise as it is quite the rollicking number.
Just when I thought perhaps the album would teeter off into ‘excellent EP, merely good LP’ territory the band unleashes ‘Listen To Your Kids’, a bouncy power-pop tune that recalls ’04 favorites Dogs Die In Hot Cars by-way-of XTC. I can never get enough of that brand of pop mustard.
A few of the slower numbers on the album like ‘Astonishing Astronomies’ and ‘Catchy Pneumonia Pajamas’ immediately brought to mind some of Will Johnson’s (Centro-matic/South San Gabriel) better work. Most notably the former with Loughridge’s up-front vocals, a smattering of gently-poked piano and a great deal of melancholy. (Great song title too!) The latter checks in at over 8 minutes and starts to become a bit too grandiose for its own good 3/4 of the way through. This probably being my only real gripe with the album as a whole.
Move Like Sparrows is a creative and diverse adventure in underground pop/rock. At times thoughtful and introspective, other times wistful and catchy. It becomes immediately evident in songs like ‘Catchy Pneumonia Pajamas’ and the opener that Conor is no slouch when it comes to lyrics and being able to convey his emotions in such a smooth, classy manner. Loughridge as a vocalist has also proven to be quite capable amidst a wide variety of sounds and the band seems more than willing to provide an invigorating backdrop to his musings. This is sure to please open-minded fans of the indie soul, power-pop and alt.country alike. Kudos.