Big beats, swirly bass lines, Lou Reed style vocals and so much more come to mind when describing Chicago band Upstairs. Their new EP, Town All Over Life, is a prelude to their forthcoming release, I Could Die Whenever, due out in October. The record details their experiences on trains, planes and automobiles, as well as picking up on the undercurrent of political turmoil in the US.
Town All Over Life has a dreamy, jet-lagged quality to it that runs throughout most of the EP. The disorientating Airport Brunch starts with tribal sounding drum beats that are tightly woven together with a hypnotising and rhythmic bass line. This track is full of moody, delicate tones and textures with mesmerising guitars and violins that come in intermittently, throwing the listener into a dreamlike state.
Well Then carries on the subdued tones and dynamics of the record with a gliding, prominent bass line that seamlessly walks through this melodic song. The guitar takes on the wonderful and subtle features of the previous track with an almost alternative shoegaze quality to it. Although the vocals aren’t exactly overly emotional and heartfelt, they have an organic laziness to them that’s highly appealing and gives an original feel to the band’s overall sound.
Next up, there’s a slight change of pace to the EP, with Placebo Buttons blending together the sounds of Pavement and the Pixies. There is a free-flowing, energetic air about the song that is reminiscent of the ’90s, with a hooky melody that’s bound to stick in your head.
Antrim Glens breaks the energetic flow with a murky and uneven jazz-infused melody. The downtempo tone of the track has an atmospheric and ambient air to it. With a continuous punch of the bass combined with an uneasy horn arrangement and a monotone style vocal delivery, the whole song oozes espionage film vibes.
2013 2014 2016 ends the record on a high. It’s punchier, punkier, and full of guitar-driven hooks; a complete shift away from the chilled-out sound of the other songs. The round style of the vocals gives a dynamic tone to the music, creating an energetic and catchy tune that has a somewhat live feel about it.
The essence of the material Upstairs have created with Town All Over Life definitely leaves a strong impression on the listener. Though there is an introverted nature to the music, it is also incredibly melodic and diverse, showing us that this is a band that has submerged themselves fully into the belly of the beast to create an exceptional EP.