Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Music: Souljunky - Here and Now [EP]

One of the problems with being a music-lover in the internet age is that there is bottomless well of fantastic music that's always literally right at your fingertips. Souljunky is a new Chicago band that demonstrates that principle aptly (full disclosure, Your Narrator is a friend of one of the band members). The group is four guys who work regular jobs and have full lives but also decided to get together and record some absolutely unbeatable pop rock in their free time.

The result is their debut EP, Here and Now which is twenty minutes of sweet musical escapism that you can get right now, for free. What a time to be alive! The group is based around songwriters Chris Hess and John Mott who have played alongside midwestern icons such as Jay Bennett and the Bodeans. They're joined by John Vander Weit and Grant Niebergall holding down the rhythm section. It's a classic pop four piece with guitar, bass, drums and keyboards that gives this group of songs a bouncy, airy feel that would fit right in alongside the New Pornographers or the Heavenly States on a mixtape.

The EP opens with a wiry guitar lick for a few bars before the full band drops in, giving the song a lush, driving backing track. "Francine" is just what any great pop album should start with, a happy song about a pretty girl. It races through breezy verses backed by light, shimmery keyboards before landing on the chorus, replete with "ooh, ooh" backing vocals.

"Suggestive Magic" sounds like a National song with the Grateful Dead providing the lyrics. I definitely prefer the music of the former to the latter, but they mix pretty comfortably here. Elsewhere, "Naked" gently poaches the words of Iron & Wine while giving them a bouncy backing worthy of fellow Chicagoans The Sea and Cake. However the best song on Here and Now is easily the closer, "You Are The Landfill". It's a driving power pop number that made me double check to make sure I wasn't listening to a Title Tracks cover. As someone who loves a well placed tambourine in my pop rock, this one hit me right between the eyes.

The one place where Souljunky's reach slightly exceeds its grasp is "Beyond The Wall" which features lyrics that aim for wistful but end up feeling aimless such as "stayin' out all night / breakin' all the rules / don't do anything right / but you can leave it all behind". Even then though, the seemingly shambling drum pattern turns into the song's secret strength as the band adds burbling bass and soaring keyboards that pull the listener out of the words and into the sonic headspace of the rest of the EP.

With summer winding down and work ramping up for many of us, I suggest you take advantage of these songs by coming home from work, popping a nice hefeweizen and heading to the back porch with Here and Now on your speakers. You won't regret it.

Chicagoans can also catch Souljunky live at Double Door on September 1st. Buy tickets here.

You Are The Landfill - Souljunky

Like what you heard? Make yourself feel good and send $5 their way for the tunes.


  1. Souljunky is really worth a listen. These cats have some serious talent.

  2. i'm a huge fan and hoping to see that they have more shows in the future. i have to disagree with the comments on "Beyond the Wall." songs doesn't always have to have deep poetic lyrics to make it a good tune. sometimes simplicity is what makes it unique. plus, it's the music in this track that makes it shine.

  3. I hear ya Anon, I agree that the music on "Beyond The Wall" is what ends up making it work. It's also true that lyrics that look flat on the page come to life in the context of a song.

    But I also want to be honest about music I love and the lyrics didn't totally click for me. I'm sure that both the band and my own opinions will keep growing though. Thanks for the feedback!

  4. Was an honor to record them!!!

  5. And it's a clean sounding record, crisp drums, balanced mix and tambourine that absolutely pops.