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Chin Up Chin Up
This Harness Can't Ride Anything
Suicide Squeeze Records

Chicago based Chin Up Chin Up are activists of neo-folk/rock. Their second release This Harness Can't Ride Anything, produced by Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Engine, Califone), has brackets of Britpop elements along classic folk threads and modern rock stock. The album follows their 2002 self-titled EP and their full length debut album We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrappers from 2004 and is dedicated to their late bass guitarist Chris Saathoff who was killed on Valentine's Day that year by a drunk driver. Their latest release blends classic and rock instrumentation with fabulous ease, breaking through the demarcations that set the often polarized styles apart in a way that is lauded by Cursive, Braid, and Town Crier. Banjo, violin, cello, and harmonica mixed with electric guitar and bass is what Chin Up Chin Up manages with melodic flow.

The album starts off with streams of atmospheric country/folk inlets on the title track exhibiting waves of guitar vibrations sewn into the melody by the passages of synthesizer and cello. Lead vocalist Jeremy Bolen has a Britpop lisp in his vocal keys as his band mates Chris Dye on drums, Greg Sharp on piano and synthesizer, Nathan Snydacker on guitar, and Jesse Woghin on bass maintain an equal vitality in their chord structures. "We've Got To Keep Running" is an upbeat number with bobbing movements and a frolicking vocal percussion, while "Islands Sink" has reflections of Britpop brush strokes of an Editors sprint. "Mansioned" rolls into soft rock atmospheres with harmonica interludes and undertones of the cello and vibraphone. The folk/rock burrows of "I Need A Friend With A Boat" bring out the piano lintels along traces of violin and cello trebles and rock rhythms. The female vocal harmonies of Laura Laurent with Bolen's voice are assenting on "Landlocked Lifeguards," along the cozy soft rock loges and crests, but are ruined by the screechy spikes that knife into the melody sporadically.

The lyrical content is ingenious, abstract, and deeply personal with lines from "Landlocked Lifeguards" like "Mirages of grass clippings line my parking lot and eggshell walls line my fence," which will keep you guessing what it all means. Bolen's vocal melody changes shape with softer registers on "Stolen Mountains" and draws out longer lengths on the final track "Trophies For Hire" displaying diversity and preventing his vocal measurements from becoming predictable. The light xylophone chimes on "Trophies For Hire" surface through the neo-folk/rock glades giving the tune a youthful glow.

Youthfulness is usually not a characteristic of folk/rock - more like melancholy fits the framework for the genre, but Chin Up Chin Up puts a smiley face on folk/rock's sullen composure. Their second release has a crossover appeal providing something that everyone will like or at least will find homey and cozy about their music.

-Susan Frances

Track listing:
1. This Harness Can't Ride Anything
2. Water Planes In Snow
3. We've Got To Keep Running
4. Islands Sink
5. Mansioned
6. I Need A Friend With A Boat
7. Blankets Like Beavers
8. Landlocked Lifeguards
9. Stolen Mountains
10. Trophies For Hire

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