Project Film - Chicago
Record Label: Tandem Shop
Release Date: Nov. 9, 2010
Project Film is a Chicago band composed of Sam McAllister and Megan Frestedt. Chicago is their debut album on Tandem Shop, the record label that McAllister founded last year while in art school.
How is it?
Promising. The disc's opener "Minneapolis," a nod to the tandem's collective hometowns features the faint strains of a guitar, plaintive piano and an atmospheric ambiance that's equal parts feathery, twinkling and endearing. While
the song threatens to meander into nothing the celestial ambiance reigns it in and keeps it from going nowhere.
"Motionless," focuses more on urgency and grit and while the duo's attempts are earnest, the song comes off as reckless and distant. They find their footing on the acoustic yarn "Spent Chicago," which channels Gibbard-like introspection and
draws its energy from a plinky piano lick in the song's final minute. There's little doubt that fans of Death Cab won't find favor with this song.
"Sound Sleepers," feels like a mix of "Spent Chicago" and "Motionless," and of all the songs on Chicago points most towards the band's promising future. Unfortunately, McAllister and Frestedt's vocals are drown out by a circular
rhythm of guitars. Were it not for Frestedt's airy ba ba ba's can't the song most assuredly would have spun out of control. The same pattern is repeated on the heavy-handed "Art School," which almost sounds out of phase and warped. While
production decisions are often based upon budget, one can't help but wonder if "Art School," would have been more effective with more spartan instrumentation.
As if cognizant of that the lilting acoustic ballad "Kapture," chases down minimalism and intimacy a la Eliott Smith. That the song is one of the disc's best is certainly not a coincidence. Though his voice is frail and tender, McAllister can evoke sentiments of sadness and vulnerability better than many of his contemporaries. Knowing how to employ his vocals to convey said emotions is the band's key going forward.
The six-minute instrumental "Ink," is arguably one of the band's strongest track as it allows the duo to play their instruments without fussing over whether or not McAllister's vocals sound drowned out (a problem that plagues much of the disc). Cinematic, graceful and laden with charm, "Ink," is as gorgeous as any instrumental composition released this year and veritable proof that Project Film are most assuredly a talented tandem.
"Cut Outs" is for all intents and purposes the album's zenith. Bouncing along like a Josh Rouse b-side, the song is playful, indelible and sweetly affecting. Whereas much of the album was spent drowning out McAllister's vocals, "Cut Outs,"
perfectly employs restraint. Unfortunately that can't be said for the scissored energy of "Cool Kids,' which ruins a searing guitar riff and an urgent pace. The album finishes with the ruminative acoustic yarn "Sun," an extension of "Kapture," that's potent, profound and nearly perfect.
And yet while it is far from flawless, Chicago is an inspired effort from an earnest indie band who wears their influences well and does little to alienate or disappoint. Armed with a bigger budget, they have the talent to make an album
that will leave Chicago breathless. The only question remains, when will that album be created? The guessing game begins.