Wednesday, November 01, 2006

CMJ 2k6 Preview: Illinois

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To be completely honest, I rarely come to shows early enough anymore to see opening bands if I haven't already heard of them. Between my job and necessary activities like eating and sleeping, I barely have enough time to clean my apartment--let alone stand for two hours listening to what often amounts to mediocre filler music. Harsh declaration, I know... but there are only so many hours in the day.

Lucky for me, I got to Northsix way early on Saturday night for the Kooks show allowing me ample time to drink beer and laugh at the dude dressed up as Queen Elizabeth I (impeccably, I might add). More importantly, I got to watch the entire set by one of the opening bands, Illinois--a band that totally blew my mind. And seriously, I'm not just saying that because they cheered "hip hip hooray" between songs.

Illinois takes the sounds of sunny Americana and alt-country and updates them with indie rock sensibilities. Banjo, sticky-sweet harmonies, and raucous foot stomping choruses mix with tin can drumming, synthesizers, and distortion for a sound that is all their own. Stylistically the band falls halfway between Nashville and New York City, which makes total sense as they hail from Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

What I find most interesting about the band is their ability to write utterly contradicting music. On its surface, "The Best" is an upbeat saccharine number with lyrics that seem to convey the typical whoop dee doo "you're the best" subject matter. Following an almost-transcendent chorus, the band unexpectedly breaks into a little outro where things get totally messed up. As the music intensifies over swirling distortion, the singer spits out lyrics that are definitely a little bit darker than the typical I love love song.

In contrast, while "Things Are Going To Be Okay" is stylistically a moody synth number, the singer chooses instead to whisper a sadly optimistic refrain.
It is this genre and convention bending that makes lllinois a total standout, though their energetic stage presence definitely doesn't hurt. They could easily be crowned the stand out act of CMJ, so make sure to check them out at the following two shows:

Nov 1 ASCAP Showcase [with Kunek] Sin-e 11:30PM
Nov 4 NY2LON CMJ Party [with Silversun Pickups and Oh No! Oh My!] Northsix 9PM

Myspace: Illinois
Audio: "The Best"


Blogger Dany said...

oh no oh my is horrible, fuck that band

10:36 AM EST  
Blogger Beth said...

I like them. "Walk In The Park" is a great song that really needs to be used in a VW commercial already.

11:06 AM EST  

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