While The Laureates have been kicking around for a few years (largely just around their hometown of Chicago), we didn’t come around to them until this spring, when “Don’t Lose Your Cool,” a digital single released in advance of their second full-length, Spells, first turned our heads. Full of swagger and muscle, it sounded kind of like classic blue-eyed soul reimagined by a post-millennial indie rock mind that probably had witnessed the Britpop era firsthand. Timeless stuff, basically, with a stomping beat and a chorus that could’ve been either a plea or a threat. That sound pops up a few times throughout the course of Spells (out now on vinyl on Funambulist Recording Co. and digitally via Candy Dinner), but the surprise is that this is mostly a kickin’ garage rock record, recalling that period just when the garage was starting to become psychedelicized. The guitars spar against each other, twang vs. fuzztone, in a celebration of open-chord bashing tempered by occasional vocal harmony lines and well-placed keyboards. But what’s particularly engrossing about this album is the band’s restraint and control, which actually makes the whole thing a little more menacing. It’s obvious without even looking at a photo of the band that these guys are grownups: The musicianship is spot-on and the dynamic lived-in, and singer Chad Preston’s tenor has both the mature low-end response and the command of adulthood — it’s the voice of the kinda guy you’d want on your side in a bar fight.
The Laureates haven’t announced plans to venture particularly far from Chicago anytime soon, but if this description sounds like your bag and/or you want a fitting soundtrack for summer’s hundred-yard stare at the approaching fall, you can download Spells in its entirety for free from Candy Dinner right now.