Carry Illinois – Siren

 Carry Illinois – Siren

Carry Illinois – Siren – EP Review

This is a fantastic and exciting year in independent music for eagerly awaiting ears out there. 2014 has had an unbelievable start to it so far, with many of the artists I’ve reviewed, seen live, or personally know making the best music they’ve made in their careers as of late. This band in review today, Carry Illinois…well….let’s just say…in this year stuffed FULL of quality music…I might have found something here on their new EP, Siren, that could very well raise the bar up from what was already a high-set standard. In these new five creatively-crafted folk-rock tunes you can’t help but hear the sheer quality & care that have been put into the production – the perfect complement to their immaculate songwriting skills.

And you know – as awesome as it is….and it IS awesome, believe me….but even with all of the astounding quality and ingenuity within this genre and style on Siren…if you were to somehow see my bearded face right now, you’d see a very unsurprised one! Let me explain…

Hopefully each and every one of my readers and follows remembers immediately going to check out the music of Lizzy Lehman when we reviewed her album, A Place I Know You’ll Love, on our site last year. I mean…that review was a damn CALL TO ARMS – I sincerely hope you ALL took my advice on that one! But here we are, reviewing and listening to Carry Illinois…together, you readers and I (Of COURSE right?) and what’s that sweet, sweet sound you can easily recognize?

Yep. That’s Lizzy Lehman. And while there are certainly MANY players on this EP making it the truly fantastic musical vessel that it is – you can certainly bank on the fact that even if there WAS nothing else – you’d still have this immaculate singer/songwriter upfront at the helm of these songs. Believe me – she can’t possibly steer you wrong; her tone and use of vocal-effects on this album are incredible. Left on her own without effects, she delivers compelling and emotionally strong performances in such a way that you KNOW that she really feels these rhythms deep inside. Either of these routes = awesome.

“Jackson Square” I want to talk about first. Perhaps my favorite vocal performance from Lizzy comes from her singing this one in a mixture of confidence versus the desolate, almost lonely themes in the music. I mean…if I HAD to pick an absolutely FAVORITE sound she comes up with on this EP, then we’d end up talking about something different. I’d immediately direct you to “Nothing To Despise” – easily one of the strongest tracks I’ve heard this year.

Without reading it over – I can tell you from memory that inside of that initial meeting of Lizzy Lehman in the review from last year, I had made a comparison of her work to my favorite band of all-time, R.E.M. “Nothing To Despise” is another shining example of why I had felt that way then, and while I still do now. This song gives me chills and contains that same haunting atmosphere that R.E.M.’s album Automatic For The People had. At other moments, particularly the last track, “A Good Farewell” – Lizzy conjures up an incredible mix of Stevie Nicks-meets-Ann Wilson in this beautifully inspired moment.

So….alright….you probably picked up on the fact that Lizzy Lehman is not only a fantastic singer and a lyrical-visionary – but she’s also not solo anymore – this review is for the band as ONE…this new project I now know and love, Carry Illinois…

Let me say first off – you’re not going to find any missteps or mistakes. This entire band is playing it all out with flawless precision – I want that on record. BUT….there’s a few key things that really made this EP work for me beyond the singing and songwriting…some key sounds. R.P. Oates on the banjo is honestly everything you could want! I’m not going to lie to you – I’m looking at the studio banjo hanging RIGHT ABOVE the screen where I’m typing this…

Cause you know something? I LOVE the sound of banjo! Just not when it comes from me. So there it hangs…relentlessly un-played and horrifyingly undisturbed… Gonna have to get our man R.P. up here one day to show me how this thing is done RIGHT!

“Weakest Limb” is a great example of this entire unit working together; excellent string arrangements, percussion and vocals in this stomping first song. Carrying into the sweet sounds of the title-track, “Siren” shows off some excellent keyboard pieces, the inclusion of even MORE incredible string arrangements and again – my main man R.P. bringing home the banjo in ways that fit each song so damn well. You banjo-doubters out there will be blown away at just how well it all fits with the music, in particular, “Siren,” which works in electronic elements, gritty & sweetened vocals to somehow all work perfectly with the banjo. Love it.

What I’ve always appreciated about any of the music Lizzy Lehman has worked on, is the intense, REAL feelings that come across in the music she makes. In this new project Carry Illinois, she takes you all the way down that emotional road and back again in just five songs – but it feels complete.

It all does really. Like I said – I’ve always been a huge fan of Lizzy – but in these five songs here, you can really hear just how much of her soul she’s investing in this particular project. It feels like a chapter of a story, yes, but one that you’ll certainly want to continue the minute you can. It starts with energy and takes you on that journey towards the final heartfelt moments of the end – and it feels incredibly & perfectly complete. You’ll be left wanting for nothing from this record by the end.

Nothing that is, except to play it again.

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