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Illinois – “Summer” EP (Illinois & DJ Skipmode)

Illinois - Summer EP
21 February 2016

As I noted in my review of their 2007 How the Hell Do I Know? mini-LP in issue 60, this twelve-year-old indie-folk outfit is not actually from the Prairie State, but bucolic Bucks County, PA. I relished that record’s “casual, off-the-cuff tunes,” especially the uplifting anthem “What Can I Do For You” – though it was the Beck-like, banjo-driven “Nosebleed” that got the most notoriety (reaching 100,000 plays on Spotify), thanks to the song’s appearance on TV’s Weeds. In early 2015 came the band’s third album Shine, the long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s more stripped-down, demo-strewn Lemonade Stand. True to its title, Shine indeed “shined,” thanks to plusher production and savvier songwriting than on any of their previous releases, and its magnetic pop grooves. So it makes sense to reinvigorate interest in the album by spotlighting the LP’s best song, “Summer,” for this (ironically) winter-released EP.

With its wheezy synths, pleasantly-toned piano, happy handclaps, shuffling dancebeat, and Chris Archibald’s engaging, euphoric vocals, “Summer” is worthy of its title, bringing to mind backyard barbeques, sunbaked beaches, and beers at the ballpark. (The remix by Philly’s DJ Skipmode is not radically different, stiffening up the original’s gelatinous groove, while adding Mayfield Gast’s jazzy sax solo.) To further incentivize Shine owners, the EP contains two non-LP tracks that share the A-side’s rejuvenating rhythms. “2020” has a laidback, stoner-pop vibe, not only mimicking the melody from Wilco’s 2002 Yankee Hotel Foxtrot gem “Jesus, Etc.,” but also Jeff Tweedy’s lethargic, lulling delivery, while on “Honey,” Archibald good-naturedly laments his lack of greenbacks over a galloping, chugging backbeat and a hummable, chiming keyboard line. June 21 may be four months away, but this’ll get your summer juices flowing. (illinoistheband.com)

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