Like Sparrows (2005, Loud
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.
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
'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.
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.