Empires | Garage Hymns

 History (2012)
By ANNIE ZALESKI  |  June 19, 2012
3.0 3.0 Stars


In 2011, Empires came tantalizingly close to winning a record deal and a Rolling Stone cover story after making it to the final four of the magazine's "Do You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star?" contest. This high-profile burst of attention, which came five years after the Chicago trio formed, raised their national profile and lit a fire under them: the vibrant Garage Hymns is a full-length with something to prove, a brawny rock-and-roll album in the spirit of the Gaslight Anthem (and the Anthem's avowed influences, '80s Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam) and U2. Sean Van Vleet's voice brims with determined grit and a starry-eyed upper register — half Brian Fallon warble, half Eddie Vedder exuberance— while guitarists Tom Conrad and Max Steger bash out riffs informed by punk velocity, post-punk darkness, and a bar band's reckless abandon. On the upbeat tip, of particular note are the grunge-glam pogo "Hell's Heroes" and its white-lightning licks, the fuzz-tipped speedball "Keep It Steady," and the distorted garage-blues swagger of "Surrenderer." The delicate, acoustic-based anthem "Night Is Young," meanwhile, is positively Springsteen. Not all of these mid-tempo moments work on Garage Hymns — at times the album drags. Still, Empires' songwriting is strong enough — and rooted in such classic sounds — that the band out-runs their shortcomings.

Related: Various Artists | Casual Victim Pile: Austin 2010, Bearstronaut | Broken Handclaps, Avi Buffalo | Avi Buffalo, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Arts, CD reviews
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   WHAT'S F'N NEXT? FIDLAR  |  March 19, 2013
    Ask FIDLAR bassist Brandon Schwartzel some basic questions about his band, and his answers reflect more than a bit of weariness with the rigmarole of publicity and music journalism.
  •   THE EMPOWERMENT OF KATE NASH  |  March 05, 2013
    Singer-songwriter Kate Nash was recently named a Global Ambassador for the Because I Am a Girl initiative, which aims to give females in developing countries the opportunity for a better life.
    In 2001, Desaparecidos were just another band formed by Conor Oberst, already a veteran of the Omaha music scene at the tender age of 21.
  •   THERE’S HOPE FOR THE VACCINES  |  January 23, 2013
    Every few years, a guitar band forms and swaggers up the charts on the strength of music that captures the UK's youthful zeitgeist.
  •   THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF ELLIE GOULDING  |  January 18, 2013
    Long before Ellie Goulding hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in summer 2012 with "Lights" — a starry-eyed dance-floor trifle with subtle neo-disco beats and sleek keyboard burbles — the singer-songwriter was a star in her native England.

 See all articles by: ANNIE ZALESKI