Bronze Chicago, IL

When unleashing their full lineup, Bronze takes audiences by storm, boasting eighteen (that’s right – eighteen) of what TimeOut Chicago has called “some of the best avant-rockers in town.” Driven by the singular songwriting and performing passion of pals and multi-instrumentalists Dylan Ryan (Herculaneum, Michael Columbia, Icy Demons) and Scott McGaughey (Chandeliers), Bronze’s unique debut was recorded between tours and sessions with the help of the venerable Blue Hawaii and a host of musicians at the ever-more-monolithic Shape Shoppe, where some of Chicago’s newest and most creative bands and players have been cutting their teeth (and often a rug, too, as the case may be) for the past few years.

Although Calypso Shakedown is in some respects a throwback to a lost era – an era characterized by saccharine enforcement of smooth passion – one is impressed more deeply on each listen by an irresistibly genuine quality, unmistakably contemporary. Think Elliott Smith meets Lionel Richie, it’s a little bit like peanut butter and bananas. Now pour on some honey. But in some respects this doesn’t do Bronze’s music complete justice. When asked, Ryan says, “we are definitely not experimenting,” although there is a hint of a fringe element to these tracks, inevitable considering the wide spectrum of styles represented by the deck of musicians contributing. Most notably, Ryan and bass player Griffin Rodriguesz are key members of the ever-surprising Icy Demons.

Uncommon depth is found on Calypso Shakedown. Say whatever else you will about it, but unfettered by convention and without affectation, there is no denying Calypso Shakedown has loads of soul. Trombones flirt with flutes atop the warm sonic glow of a Fender Rhodes, guitars mingle with vibraphone and violin and cello soar over elaborate vocals. Throughout, an uncommonly adept rhythm section (think rhythm and blues) forms the backbone that speaks volumes and could move mountains.

It’s no surprise that the music of Bronze is often strongly driven by visual inspiration. Though this record was made in Chicago, in some ways it’s all Hollywood. Ryan attributes the bouncy, impossibly catchy hooks of the retro-funk tune “Chinatown” to a strong Michael Mann influence: picture yourself driving down Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive (the wind in your hair, in the dark glow of a summer sunset there are headlights in your rear-view mirror) on the way to grittier Lower Wacker Drive. “Erica” is cinematic sound embodied, delivering its simple, familiar melody through the smooth punctuated curtain of an electric piano. This is urban music with one foot in the sand and the other on dirty curb. The brassy “Jezebel” moves into a more turbulent groove as the song goes along. “Artist Of The Beautiful” was inspired by an intense short story of the same name by 19th Century writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In a parallel pink-noir universe where heartbreak is literally a crime, Bronze might stand tall as a singular voice of passion and sincerity. In this standard universe they’re taller yet. Find out for yourself why the Chicago Tribune calls Bronze “big indie-rock talent.” Book a one-way ticket – to Calypso Shakedown.