Labors is the creative music output for Chicago's Z. L. Melton, Sarah “Rose” Anderson, Jacob Hand, Alexis Dionissopoulos and Addison Ashbaugh. In 2012 they released The Dry As A Bone EP to good reviews and just recently released Blue Funk. According to the band the album is the culmination of several years of composing, playing shows, and obsessive woodshedding. Some things are worth the wait and this is one of those things.
Blue Funk is a diverse album that embeds itself in melancholy pop that merge noir, jazz and a bit of rock. At times it sounds like a Twin Peaks infused collaboration with Talk Talk while also not neglecting bands like Low, Yo la Tengo and even a bit of Johnny Cash. The sadness that emits from this album is prominent but is also often beautiful. More on that later.
The first song “The Grand East” creates a thematic LA noir sultry landscape with a jazz bar. The music slowly sprawls as Z. L. Melton sings over the mood. His delivery fits the milieu. It’s sad, almost desperate and delivered as if he even ingested a Xanax and a shot of whiskey. They basically hit it out of the park on the first song.
“Cross Country Lines” emits a similar feeling when you listen but is also quite different. The band implements slide guitar and male/female vocal harmonies that mesh together well. It almost feels like it’s melting and as if the band is barely hitting their instruments. That might sound bad on paper but is quite the opposite in execution. The band attempts and succeeds at their version of rocking out on “Cherub.” They introduce some distortion and waves of dissonance, which start to collapse in a good way.
“Death Beds” reinforces the strengths of the band and showcases some of the best vocal harmonies the band has to offer while “All Degree Day” utilizes white noise and feedback. They close with “Porcelain” which amongst the songs is the most hopeful and upbeat sounding despite the lyrics “I want to die in your arms tonight.” The sway and time of the song is reminiscent of a waltz, which gives it that almost dance-worthy quality.
This is a good album that stand outs because it’s original but also relies on exceptional songwriting. Job well done. Bravo.
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