I think people primarily know Michigan for The Stooges and the MC5. Chain of Lakes sound nothing like that. Whereas The Stooges found solace in tonal violence and the MC5 channeled their apathy of the man into some of the most hypnotic energy rock ever, Chain of Lakes makes folk music that tugs at your heartstrings until the threat of ripping them out becomes very real. The music isn't violent or energetic. It is quite detailed, not delicate though. It has the same sort of beauty as those old glass toys you find in antique shops. Another thing that should be noted is how good the production is on the album. The guitars sound crisp and clear while the vocals fit perfectly in the mix which adds to already impressive songs.
This is primarily folk music for those frostbitten nights you spend alone, and their newest release Softer Sticks never lets you forget that. The band's got a good racket going, building up like inhaling that first sip of heated whiskey and exhaling sincerity. The midnight guitar haze on "With Time" is an excellent song for your inner lone wolf. One of the highlights of the album is "Your Day" which contains some awesome sounding percussive elements and soaring harmonies. The resigned closer "A New Kind" follows the same melancholy formula but in strictly acoustic terms. The songs run the gamut of soft, lonely country rock to much more lush compositions that sometimes feature the violin ("Cool Down" is a particularly sobering track with its graceful notes).
I wasn't kidding when I said the music is quite detailed. Even at its most bare it manages to play little sonic tricks on the listener. As far as the vocals and lyrics go, it needs a bit of work. The male singer sounds no different than anyone else plumbing this genre, and you'll have to sound a bit more convincing to pull off lines like "the constant cramped complaints/I'm not all about frost but I’d trade dog days for colder."
Good sad stuff, the kind of music you play while drunkenly making hot chocolate at 2 a.m. (true story).
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