Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
In this edition of Independent Spotlight I will be taking a hard look at the Chicago-based indie rock group, Red Monday, and their new self-titled debut album which dropped in August. First, though, I’d like to delve into Red Monday as a group to give the music some context.
Red Monday is a group built on coincidence. Essentially, lyricist and musician Jim Miller ran into a series of incredulous twists of fate and eventually teamed up with vocalist Rick Harris, where in turn they crafted a band around Miller’s vision for a unique musical experience that could attempt to energize the local music scene amidst a sea of cover bands and predictable acts. Their new bold debut album is twelve tracks long; so how did they do? Let’s get into it:
The album introduces itself with ‘She’s on Fire,’ a powerful rock track with cascading guitar riffs that echo the best of classic rock. Immediately, the musical style is eerily similar to a band like Rush, but with a more modern twist and a vocalist that has a bit of an Eddie Vedder vibe to him. The production is absolutely exceptional; the vocals are crisp, the mix is clear, and each instrument delivers in full force. It’s always refreshing to hear an independent band with a strong production since so much of the scene is plagued with low-fi, poorly produced DIY EP’s and albums. Red Monday’s debut was recorded professionally in a studio, and it complements them well.
‘Brianna’ continues the record introducing a softer tone to Red Monday with a pretty acoustic introduction. Quickly the band escalates into full on rock and roll, though, and their sound is quite elegant. The band describes their creative process as being centered largely around making Miller’s songs jive with Harris. They’ve accomplished this in spades, and Harris’ really carries the band emotionally giving an superb performance.
‘Time (It’s About Time)’ was the first single of the record, and it’s certainly single material. The track really rocks with a suave bass and guitar riff playing off of some equally suave lyrics. ‘Isn’t That The Way’ has a different aura to it with a unique vocal delivery from Harris coupled with an arena rock-like jam. It works, though, as does every song on this record. ‘Closer’ is a deeper jam with guitar harmonics overlaying a jazzy bass groove and some bluesy lyrics. There is no shortage of catchy choruses and love songs on this album, reminiscent of the glory days of this kind of music.
‘Sanctuary’ continues the rock anthem nature of the record, with ‘When I Hear Your Voice’ following after as one of the highlights of the record. This piece in particularly is magnificently beautiful, haunting the listener as it expands with a brass section. ‘When I Hear Your Voice’ may very well be the best produced and most excellent track on the collection.
Miller boasts that Red Monday houses some amazing harmonies and melodies. That it does, and those continue through the rocking ‘You Move Me,’ and 'Why Should I Lie,’ another highlight of the record where a stunning piano and minimalistic electric guitar bantering back and forth instrumentally in perfect harmony. ‘Broken Promises’ follows your classic heartbreak formula, but it does so with extreme tact and individuality.
‘Man in the Mirror’ continues the trend of catchy choruses with a wonderfully memorable performance; Harris and the rest of the band continue to convey quite a bit of emotion through their rock and roll: a rock and roll sound that feels pure and original, yet familiar. ‘Man in the Mirror’ has one of the most memorable guitar solos on the album as well. ‘Somebody Else’ finishes out the record, and it’s musically intriguing. The acoustic guitar opens the song accenting Harris’ ghostly performance. It’s one of those songs that looks forward to the future: “one day we’ll be together.” As a final performance, it acts as the perfect encore, since you’ll listen to it once, then return to it three or four times before you go back and listen to the record from the start.
The Chicago music scene breeds the best. From Mavis Staples to Cheap Trick to Wilco, Chicago has been the place for all of them. Rock and roll never would have happened without Chess Records, and you can bet your ass that the best place for live blues is Buddy Guy’s Legends. Believe me, I live here, and participate in the same music scene Red Monday is attempting to save. So with that said, Red Monday redefines your average clubbing band by creating a repertoire for themselves that stands on its own two feet. In the spirit of the city, there is plenty of space here for their sound. Hopefully, though, they can branch out, because they’re a good enough band to do so. They don’t seem to be gigging at the moment, but when they do, I’ll see you there.
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