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 afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we’re going to shine our gaze onto Chaz Hearne, a Chicago-based artist with a new EP out entitled ‘The One Year.’ On the record, Hearne is accompanied on each track by Alex Gilewicz on vocals and cello. The culmination of the two performers is a remarkably stunning excursion through acoustic music - perhaps even the best of the year in the indie scene thus far.
‘Spell’ sets a gorgeous tone for the EP as the duo dance masterfully around each other in a soundscape of simplicity. There isn’t any ostentatious soloing or jamming in this music. It’s raw, pure, and surprisingly original. The harmony between Hearne’s acoustic guitar performance and Gilewicz’s cello is quite unlike anything that’s come across my desk in some time. World influence also tinges ‘Spell’ with guest performances by Adrian Munive, a clarinetist, and Jackie Goodman, a flutist.
‘Enter Autumn’ is the first track the duo duets on. (Well, throughout the whole song. They harmonize in the opener.) Their vocal banter creates a beautiful atmosphere on the track, and I love the combination of Hearne on banjo next to Gilewicz’s cello. The folksy endeavor is short, snappy, and instantly loveable. For a sound that’s created with a minimalist set-up of acoustic instruments, it’s actually a tad anthemic. You could most certainly dance to ‘Enter Autumn.’
‘Winterthoughts,’ a more atmospheric jaunt through bright fingerpicking and vocal harmonies, offers a stark contrast to its two predecessors. The mix isn’t quite as good, though, and ‘Winterthoughts’ sounds like it was recorded with a room mic. As a result, the vocals feel distant and they’re a bit distorted. One could make the argument that this creates a more ‘natural’ sound, though.
Despite my small quip with ‘Winterthoughts,’ I still think ‘The One Year’ is one of the better recorded and produced acoustic efforts in the indie scene right now. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: acoustic instruments can be very difficult to work with in the studio. Having proper mic placement and capturing each instrument properly is a skill that notably few independent bands and artists have mastered.
Chaz Hearne and Alex Gilewicz have it down. ‘The One Year’ is a lovely listening experience as a result. Plus, it does feel like an experience. ‘Go Back’ and ‘Yes We Will (Springthings)’ flow together so well that I was initially under the impression that they were the same track until I checked my music player. The two tracks harness different sides of the same sonic coin in excellent unison.
Finally, ‘In Summer (All You Find) Is Green’ closes the album with a pretty journey through some relatable, soft-spoken folk musings. As a duo, Hearne and Gilewicz are very special. As a record, ‘The One Year’ is an EP that stands very tall against its indie counterparts. Go listen to it now if you’re a fan of acoustic music.