Album: Gargoyle Days
Release Date: October 31, 2011
Free mp3: “Striking Violet” (go quick — link expires on Christmas!)
As we inch closer to the end of this year and the beginning of another, I’ve been on a kick to fit in all these albums I’d meant to review but as yet had not done.
That explains, then, why The Grandpa vs. Grandma EP — released in February — was reviewed here a few weeks ago. About the same can be said of Sons of the West, a group I bumped into back in April before they had anything recorded. They’d pinged me about their debut album over the summer — July maybe — and my thoughts on the self-titled release got uploaded, um, a week ago.
Timeliness, say, hasn’t been a priority here over the past several months.
Yet timeliness has hardly been a measure for the way I work things around here. Sure, it’s neat posting my ramblings on a new release a few days — or even a week — before it’s available for the public, but doing so too frequently — or coming to rely on it — would probably mean I’d be snobbish about Chicago Tunes and consider what I’m doing here vital to the health and safety of the city’s music scene.
Chicago Tunes, instead, has long been a destination for me to talk about the music I’m listening to and also happen to like. If I catch an album’s wave before it comes out, then great! But if I’m late by a few months, then that’s pretty great, too. Music is music is music, you know?
With that said, these past few weeks I’ve been concentrating on rolling out some final reviews to ensure my year-end album list is as good and as true as can be. I’m just about there, folks. You should see that post — similar to the one I did a year ago — sometime soon.
Quite a number of publications have beaten me to the punch already. And as much as I like to avoid them so as not to spoil how I intend to compile my own list, I can’t help but as least browse through what other people have been listening to this year.
I’m only one man in a big, big sea of music. Surely there are many albums and artists I’ve yet to listen to — let alone hear about.
Before this week, Apteka had been one of those bands. Based in Chicago, Apteka and their Gargoyle Days seemed to be just about everywhere, and I had not a clue who they were. So I did myself a favor and educated myself through their Bandcamp and then later their press person.
Well. Gargoyle Days is the most addicting local release I’ve had the pleasure of listening to this year. I can’t listen to one track without spinning a handful more. It’s been fairly disgusting, actually, how commonplace it’s been for me to listen to Gargoyle Days from beginning to end and then go: “Well, that was nice. And now let’s go and do that again.”
Full disclosure: It probably goes without saying that Gargoyle Days will be at or near the top of my year-end list when I get around to writing it.
What’s been interesting about this year in music for me is I’ve finally discovered that I really happen to like psychedelic rock. Soft Speaker, I think, opened that door for me with their two releases this year, and then Sons of the West — which isn’t as psychedelic, but seems to have a thing about their sound that reminds me of it — kept the notion alive. Apteka, then, all but cements the idea in stone.
I’m still getting my feet wet in psych rock, but Gargoyle Days feels oddly therapeutic for the genre. Even a ripply tune like “Striking Violet” — by far the hardest thing on the record — has been my anecdote for relieving any and all aggression that accumulates from a frustrating day at the office. I listen to it, with its heavy guitars and screamed vocals and big drums, and am calmed. “Striking Violet” is wonderful.
Listening to it, then “Monterey” gives you a good sense of Apteka’s range on Gargoyle Days. What, between the fast and quick and screams of “Striking Violet” to the slow soars and breathy lyrics of “Monterey,” Apteka in fact covers a significantly large spectrum of notes.
What I couldn’t get behind at first (but have since warmed up to) is the near uniformity to Gargoyle Days’ track listing. You get a slow one, then a quick one, then a slow one and so on. It seemed unnatural, really. But what I misread as transition-less chop actually makes for real movement that — with enough spins — becomes as transitory as the songs themselves.
There’s a duality at work here — fast and slow, fast and slow, and the pieces (the songs) benefiting the moves of the whole (the album) — that, intended or not, makes it a trip for listeners to digest Gargoyle Days in its entirety, and not mere parts of it. I suppose that’s something an artist ultimately strives for in a release. And that happens here on Gargoyle Days.
- Apteka, based in Chicago, is: Adam Lukas, Dino Balocchi, Jesse Hozeny and Dave Narey.
- Gargoyle Days is freely streaming on Bandcamp. Or, purchase for $7.49.
- I’ve done a work out with Apteka and their people, and am offering up a totally free download of “Striking Violet” this week. Be quick — Christmas Day is your final chance to grab it!
- Apteka opens for Secret Colours at the Empty Bottle on Saturday, January 7. Tickets are $8 (or free with RSVP.)