Arbor Creek’s Releases Sophomore Album
I haven’t heard rock music this sinewy and difficult to pin down in some time. Arbor Creek’s sophomore album Thanks for Wading does go in for the obvious, once or twice, but the predominant mood of this band of Chicago rockers seems to be more about upending expectations rather than playing to them. Even in the moments when they stick to the musical script, i.e. the album’s third track “Cold in Chicago”, it’s carried off with such singular collective style that you welcome it with open arms – and ears.
“Shoes” serves up some sleight of hand. It introduces itself as a straight ahead mid-tempo blues rocker, lower key than you may perhaps expect, but nonetheless falling into line. The song lyrics gives you the first hint that not everything is quite “business as usual” as the words find interesting variations on tried and true songwriting tropes. The arrangement takes a turn near the song’s end and springs a final surprise during the cut’s closing seconds.
“Make Up Your Mind” reminds me a little of Street Hassle-era Lou Reed vocally colliding with a great Chicago blues shuffle. There’s a little more effects than I like placed on the vocal but the singing overcomes that with ear-grabbing phrasing and tone. Playfulness and hard-nosed blues exist side by side with this track and there’s scarcely a better definition of what electric blues is all about.
If there’s any doubts about their blues chops, “Cold in Chicago” erases them. This is the real stuff, 200 proof, no chaser. The four musicians achieve the sort of one-minded unity of artistic purpose with this song that every band aspires to and it’s a consistent theme running through these songs. Arbor Creek is appearing to enjoy the chemistry they share as musicians more than ever before.
Dropping a couple of instrumentals into the album may take some by surprise. The band spends the right amount of time on their lyrically driven numbers but even a cursory listen to this release reveals that they are, before all else, musicians. “George and Eddie” brings the right amount of musical fireworks, as well, and it’s difficult to imagine many hearing this song and bemoaning the loss of vocals. “Lovely Summer Day” will be a favorite for many listeners as its one of the band’s best examples of their brand of unbridled rock. Melody is never far from what this band does, no matter how rough and tumble it sounds, and this is one of the best examples of their approach to rock music.
There’s blues, rock, near progressive jazzy breaks, and an across the board degree of instrumental excellence powering the last track. “Day Is Gonna Come – Day Is Here” is a chameleon of a song, shapeshifting as it progresses, and the band confidently steers it towards a well-tailored conclusion. This will be one of the undoubted peaks of the band’s live set should they choose to tackle it and it’s almost unfathomable to think they won’t try. It’s quite the capper on one of the year’s best rock albums, without a doubt.