Band: The 1900s
Album: Medium High
Release Date: January 20, 2009
I like to think orchestral pop is practiced and performed all over the place. And yet right here in Chicago — or in Elsinore‘s case, Illinois — it’s just done so frickin’ well.
Please add The 1900s to the list of bands that use things like keys and string instruments rather wonderfully.
In The 1900s’ case, it’s the crafting of pleasing, easy listenin’ tunes. Their music’s got a beat, yet is the opposite of overbearing and intense. It’s shimmery, lighthearted pop.
What I suppose are violins in Medium High’s lead track, “Collections,” are just beautiful. I like the way they weave in and out with ease and durability. It’s like they’re flying. And coupled with some upbeat keyboards, guitar and drums, the song’s a bit bouncy, yet relaxing, too.
I discovered the most meaning in “When I Say Cohen,” which is actually a Leonard Cohen-inspired live version of an earlier song of theirs called “When I Say Go.”
There’s a good chance it’s a break-up song, but I opened its scope a bit and related it to laziness, and how acceptance of it leaves us empty, cold and alone.
It seems so common nowadays to be defined by what we do — with the expectation that that’s enough. We get home from our 9-5, believe the notion that we’re “tired” and reward ourselves with doing nothing… alone.
As “When I Say Cohen” argues — as do I — that’s a ruined life:
Watching all the quiet faces I don’t understand
I believe we can be rescued by better things than man
And everyone would be so sorry I don’t even know
I been watching all my time go to waste
Life doesn’t happen on the shoulders of one person, nor hidden behind a door. To live is to go out and do things, meet people, try things that may make you uncomfortable. Otherwise, you’ll probably be trained — without even realizing it — to wait for somebody to “say go.”
“Making Love in Summertime” is basically a post-coital sex romp. I like the simplicity of it and the “I’ve got this feeling coming over me, this funny feeling and it’s taking over me” on repeat.
The last 40 seconds, actually, features a drum increasing in intensity while The 1900s are singing about their funny feelings. And then, like an orgasm, it’s over.
Medium High’s description reads that the album’s seven tracks are a series of b-sides and re-imaginings that manages to sound surprisingly cohesive together. It’s true. I think kind orchestrations aid in that effort, as well as general themes about life and love that seem to be in each track.
- The 1900s, based in Chicago, is comprised of Edward Anderson, Caroline Donovan, Andra Kulans, Jeanine O’Toole and Charles Ransford.
- Medium High can be streamed in its entirety on the group’s Bandcamp page. You can also purchase it for $5.
- The 1900s will rock Lincoln Hall tonight with White Mystery and Lover! Tickets are $10.