If there's one thing the Changes do better than most new bands it's that they fully embody the essence of "pop" and not in a bubblegum kind of way. This Chicago band, who is releasing its first full-length album, Today is Tonight, on Sept. 26 after putting out two fan-capturing and somewhat critically acclaimed EPs, writes catchy, crafty rock songs that can always put you in a good mood.
Last year, they were lauded as being the only band on the Lollapalooza bill that wasn't signed to a label -- and it gained them a lot of attention. But then as Lolla faded into the past, the Changes went through some internal restructuring, dug in and headed into the studio. Every so often they would emerge and play a one-off show, but for the most part, they hunkered down and focused on creating the music.
And their solitude paid off.
The result is Today is Tonight, a well-balanced collection of old songs carefully selected from their two EPs and a handful of hot-off-the-presses tracks that seamlessly blur the lines of old Changes to new Changes.
Cleverly, the band chose to bookend the tracklist with two old songs "When I Wake," one of their catchiest, radio-friendly songs, and "When I Sleep," a sultry, sleepy, dreamlike track that features a sexy pre-recorded drum machine sample. And in between: a batch of songs that, unless your dead, will get you excited about experiencing new music. Singer Darren Spitzer leads the charge on most of the songs, but guitarist David Rothblatt, who has really come into his own during live performances, takes over the vocals on two tracks: "When I Sleep" and the new romantic piece "Sisters," in which the boys pay homage to their sisters (each member has one sibling -- a sister).
The album pulls from a variety of genres: rock ("The Machine," "Her, You and I"), '50s doo-wop ("Water of the Gods"), plucky, upbeat love ballads ("On a String," "Sisters"). But possibly the biggest surprise on the album is the Steely Dan-influenced disco ditty "Twilight." Hearing Rob Kallick's thumpy, funky bass lines pulls you right into an episode of "The Love Boat." It makes you want to pull up your knee-high rainbow tube socks and don a pair of roller skates and hit the streets with Jack, Janet and Chrissy to do the Hustle. It's a complete departure from the Changes familiar repertoire, but completely in line with their capabilities. A great addition to this track: drummer Jonny Basofin's turn on the congas. "Twilight," truly a great surprise.
While they include a number of formerly recorded songs, the most reworked is their oldest (and my personal favorite): "Such a Scene." On this song, the band storms out of the gate -- almost as if they're gearing up for a big fight scene in a movie. Darren's vocals are more gruff than normal, adding a desperate sexiness, while pleading to hang onto a relationship. The band is possibly tightest on this than any other track, which is nice to see that they can twist a modern spin on a classic tune.
Overall, this debut from The Changes is refreshing. In a time when so many acts are still churning out the post-punk vibe or tinkering with dance rock, this Chicago hopeful plays it straight up with their take on rocky-edged vocal pop.
Most of the band's older songs are already floating around the Internet. You can pre-order Today is Tonight from the band's re-designed site. In the meantime, enjoy my 2 fave tracks:
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