It’s said that everything old is destined to become new again. Vinyl has never been bigger, millennials are walking around with Walkmen and headphones around their necks, and bellbottom jeans seem to be showing up on a new pair of legs every five minutes. The cycle of time is wild, and even wilder is seeing the music industry slowly fold in on itself. Mega-famous artists such as The Weeknd are doubling down on their influences by going full-on ‘80s with their projects, while some are pivoting even further back to the ‘70s (see: Silk Sonic, featuring Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak.) Nobody in the mega-mainstream has been brave enough to reference the expansive pot of classic ‘60s-era tunes, yet, though, and one indie act might have beaten them all to the punch. If you don’t know about Chicago’s very own The Unswept, get ready to!
Formed by a trio of cousins, The Unswept is made up of Charlie, Liz, and Ryan O’Brien. All originally helming from Sheffield, England before joining a touring company and winding up in the windy city of Chicago, this is a band that truly wears their heart on their sleeve. From the moment their music begins, you’re transported back to an era of doo-wops and bob hairdos. It’s uncanny how era-accurate this trio seems to be, and it’s a beautiful thing! Their newest album Fast Casual is due out soon and acts as their fourth full-length release as a group.
Fast Casual is a total send-up to the era of bubblegum pop, dancing around radio censors, and studio songs with clapping in place of drums. It’s an instant mood-booster to throw on, just check out this opening line sung by Ryan O’Brien from the first track “You Keep Me Company:” “I’m here three times a week in the little back booth / waiting for you to bring me my noodles / and I don’t even like noodles.” There’s a sly knowing approach at play, and the deft knowledge of the music they’re paying tribute to weaves its way across the entire album without any snobby superiority. Another bold choice for the band comes with allowing all three members to feature on lead vocals, a true throwback move. Liz O’Brien’s best work happens on “Got Lucky,” the album’s single, as she sings about finally finding her chance to get lucky with schoolgirl levels of glee. Charlie puts in great work, too, and is a standout on the effervescent “Please Don’t Waste My Time,” which is a fairly stripped-down pop entry for the album.
There’s absolutely a modern market for The Unswept, and their work in the Chicago music scene seems to be gaining traction. If the right track manages to gain radio play and attention, there’s no telling where this band will go. It’s refreshing to have found a group so indebted and in love with the oldies, and their work is doing a great job at keeping those genre sensibilities alive. The O’Briens seem like they’re only just getting started, and they might even keep slowly evolving their sound to scratch different nostalgic itches. Fast Casual is exactly what the doctor ordered, and everyone’s about to find out.
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