As we near the end of 2014, it’s a must to look back on albums that we might have missed or slept on from earlier this year. It’s inevitable, and there will always be bands that “miss the cut”. As I looked back on albums from earlier this year, I found a standout band who released a solid and well-rounded EP that I didn’t seem to hear of.
Landmarks is a psychedelic rock band from Chicago, and they released their debut EP on November 18th, 2014. Bringing the classic psychedelic sound from previous decades and mixing it with modern innovations is what makes this band a must listen. Everything sounds traditional, but with the perfect touch of more recent ideas the songs come alive. One song you will hear a definite late 60’s psychedelic rock sound, and the next a 90’s indie rock guitar riff. You can tell you’re in for a journey as soon as the EP begins, with “Mason Hill” being a short introduction of looping ambient synths. Right after, the second track kicks in.
RELEASE DATE: 18 November 2014 LABEL: Walk-In Records
“Space/Time” hooks the listener immediately with the upbeat guitar and laid-back drums. The soothing vocals fit perfectly with the music, and the song only goes deeper into chaos. The instrumental aspect of the song goes everywhere, while the vocals tie together the verse and chorus making the song a smooth connection. While definitely psychedelic rock, they do a great job of molding other ideas into their music, and this song has elements of indie rock and arguably even math rock infused. This is what makes Landmarks a must listen, they know what genre to play, but are not tied to it, leaving room to explore.
“Cuscutta” picks up where “Space/Time” ends, in a mess of ambient keys. The song is slower, the drums are played soft and the guitar more relaxed. This gives the vocals a chance to take over the song, and they certainly do. The soft and dreamy vocals lead the song into a much more psychedelic realm of their music. The atmosphere on this song must be noted, since the effect it has on the mood of the song is eminent. It has a very “classic” sound to it, and the song smoothly finds its end where it began. It doesn’t build up or build down, but it doesn’t need to. It stays the same, but in the best way possible.
Up next is “Jackson Park”, and the guitar melody is one of my favorites off of the EP. While the song builds up, the melody is still there, getting louder and louder as it goes. The drums playfully build up with the guitar, and the end result is the guitar melody accompanied with a saxophone. I love the way the saxophone fits the music seamlessly, and the feeling is very nostalgic and, of course, relaxing.
“Elysian Fields” is the instrumental break on the EP, and it is ethereal and exotic. There’s an amazing violin that lifts the listener throughout the song, and the overall feel is very ambient. Everything gets louder and louder as the song progresses, and you can really feel the buildup of the static as you listen. By the end of the track, it reaches a level of confusion, then slowly dies down into the next song.
“Pacific” has a very math rock feel to it, and you can hear it with the guitar especially. With a very interesting bass line, the song soars and descends, fluctuating between the two. The guitars react to the vocals in a beautiful and uplifting way, leading the song into new territory. About halfway through the song, everything changes to become more guitar-driven as the track builds up. The guitars are simple, yet so powerful on the result of the song. Right as the song reaches its peak, the guitars strum an ambient chord and everything dies down, leading us to right into “Amboy Road”.
The last song on the EP, “Amboy Road”, starts without missing a beat. The song is cheery, and the drum beat reminds me of some older surf rock songs, characterized by the two snare hits. Keeping the happy tone of the song alive, the song breaks into the drum beat again, now with more heavily layered guitars. The rest of the song stays instrumental, and even has a well-placed guitar solo. This song shows just how talented they are at keeping the psychedelic rock sound in their songs, with a nice blend of modern influences as well.
Landmarks’ debut EP is the perfect example of the iconic psychedelic rock sound, and even though it is blended with modern influences, it never loses the integrity that the genre has. The guitar plays smooth throughout the album, which is something I love to hear from psychedelic rock bands, especially if they’re more guitar driven. Some bands go a more electronic route, but what I like about Landmarks is that they only use effects to heighten the songs. They play true rock by the books, but they venture out when it is needed. The rock scene needs more innovative bands like Landmarks to light a spark on traditional music and augment what’s already there to create their own true style. For this reason, among others, is why their EP is such a solid release, it truly is a breath of fresh air.
I found out about Landmarks through another article of ours, which was a Weekly Playlist that showcases talented bands that are relatively new. You can buy Landmarks’ EP digitally on their Bandcamp, or on vinyl through Walk-In Records.