Illinois | What the Hell Do I Know? (Ace Fu)

cd_illinoisWhenever Illinois starts to hint toward psychedelic, they always remember to harness pop structures and rein them in.





Bursting out of Bucks County, Pa. (if that's possible) comes the un-ironic, ironically named foursome Illinois, with their most noteworthy release to date, an EP entitled What the Hell Do I Know? With a gently melodic, yet refreshingly understated framework, Illinois' EP teases with a number of indie-rock gems for indie-rock fans of all tastes. At seven tracks, the release is clearly not a full display of what this group is capable of, yet it reveals a great enough depth to merit praise for a wide range of sonic achievements. At a pop-friendly 3:14 or less, the songs are brief, and when the EP ends, you'll find yourself Googling "Illinois "(which is very difficult…stupid band) for whatever additional material you can get to envelope your fleeting obsession. However, I urge the impatient to abstain from moving on. These seven songs are worthy of repeat listens, so let it loop and grow a few times.

Beginning with the immediately infectious "Alone Again," a sliding lead accompanies a melody constructed on "buh buh bums," with band leader Chris Archibald alternating his sweet vocals between subdued verses and filtered choruses. A faint piano drones the primary bass-backing, blending a number of subtle tones until the song explodes with a wonderful criss-crossing of vocals from Martin Hoeger and Dru Lee, all while John Paul Kuyper beats his snare-heavy skins. The relative peace of the opening track gives way to a simple, abrasive banjo-riff, while Hoeger's fuzzy bass introduces Archibald's Isaac Brock-esque, loud, and conversational verses in "Nosebleed." Similar to "Alone Again," and somewhat thematically of Illinois, the songs maintain time, relying more on the contrasting impact of stacking new, pretty layers on crumbling brick.

The most pleasant song on What the Hell Do I Know? is "What Can I Do for You," a piano-driven farewell to love, centered around Archibald's sweet delivery of the line, "It's the best thing I could've done for you/ I have to let you go, but I don't want to." The idea is cliché, of course, but the earnestness of Archibald's tone should place most cynics squarely on his side. While "What Can I Do for You" has the most memorable melody, "One on One" does the best job of defining Illinois. Essentially sounding like a less avant-garde Flaming Lips, a spacey, phaser-riff follows the song's true lead in Hoeger's fuzzy bass. Whenever Illinois starts to hint toward psychedelic, they always remember to harness pop structures and rein them in. "Screendoor" is reminiscent of older Beatles, or perhaps the Kinks, and serves as a simple experiment in plain fun, but once again Illinois is able to maintain a level of authenticity.

Although Illinois have yet to release a significant full-length album, their body of work has been impressive enough to allow them to accompany the Kooks on tour. After finishing this tour, and playing a few of their own shows, Illinois will soon be touring alongside another indie juggernaut in the Hold Steady. If this success is any indication, this band will be having a big 2007 and beyond. They had better, or I'm gonna seriously start resenting the fact that they named their band after my home state. Illinois is not something to be messed with. B | Dave Jasmon

RIYL: The Flaming Lips, Dr. Dog, The Beta Band

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