Unlike Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, etc, there are not too many new artists (especially those deemed indie) hailing from Chicago. However, when we do produce one, it’s no secret they stand out above the rest. Andrew Bird, Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins, Rise Against, OK Go… and soon to be (hopefully) Young Jesus. And no, I don’t mean some reincarnation of Christ as a child and a merry band of disciples. A group of four down-to-earth dudes with no religious affiliation, the only thing YJ preaches is their own genre of pure rock and roll — “Party-Angst Indie” to be exact.
Spawning from suburbs of the windy city, Young Jesus consists of Peter Martin bangin’ drums, Shawn Nystrand slappin’ bass, and Cody Kellogg shreddin’ guitar along with John Rossiter (who also lends his intense Matt Berninger-esque voice to serve as lead singer). Unsigned yet underestimated, they’re slowly working their way up from the Chicago underground and into speakers across the country. Over the past roughly 3 1/2 years since first forming, they’ve released three EPs and taken part in Red Bull’s Rock the Route, resulting in their first tour and the ability to record one of their EPs in Red Bull’s L.A. studio.
Now they’ve self-recorded and released their first album Home. Diverse, innovative, and relatable; overall, it’s pretty damn impressive for a rookie band. With a storyline continuing from early EPs, they’ve created a folk-punk-acoustic-grunge-alternative rockin’ soundtrack for the life of David, a character they’ve fabricated through which they share the turmoil of suburban life (but one with less grandeur than Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs). Whether you’ve dealt first or secondhand with drugs and alcohol, falling in and out of love, loneliness, or experienced the weight of the world on your shoulders as you figure out who you are and where you’re going, there’s sure to be some part of Home that you’ll identify with.
Although this album dropped in January, I have no shame when I say I still haven’t taken it off repeat, even now in June. They’ve got this strong, consistent kind of punk vibe all throughout Home, but convey it through a variety of sounds. One of my favorite tracks, “David,” is probably the most basic alternative rock song out of the bunch, but it’s a good place to start for new listeners. With a swelling guitar hook that builds anticipation, it manifests into a simple yet catchy roller coaster of sound, peaking with the breakdown that will leave you singing and thinking about David, too.
But that’s just one aspect of the sound they’ve brought to Home. “The Greater Boulders” is an intense and vehement track daubed in punk energy and bursting with vigorous guitars. “Earthquake” is an acoustic number that’s perfect for that last song before bed, slow and full of soothing harmonies. “News” is simply a folk tune with a rockin’ edge. ”Not Quite Dead” is a grungy and loud symphony of sound, infused with rambunctious guitar yet also interludes of harmonies and an alleviating piano closing. “Home” is a powerful piano ballad that ties the whole album together and brings it to a graceful end. (And that’s just to name a few).
I HIGHLY recommed getting this album. Did I mention you can get it, and some of their work, entirely free here? Simply name your price and prepare to have your music library improved. Exhilarating and passionate, Young Jesus have proved their first album to be full of talent and potential. There’s no doubt they’re headed down the right road, and with a bit of polishing up they’re sure to be Chicago’s next big hit.