There is something eerie about the way the universe will give you what you need. Something about the way an existential crisis can really be a blessing in disguise. Something about the way that you can hear a song on the overhead at a venue and not know if it is Volcano Choir or Bon Iver, but know nonetheless that there is something about Justin Vernon’s voice that grips you, that oozes humanity, and beckons you closer.
Chicago is blessed to have a performer that is just as gripping as Vernon in Gordon Robertson, the frontman of The Damn Choir. While his vocals lean closer to those of Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, one thing is certain: there is no other artist known to my ears who so eloquently and honestly faces themes of love lost or found, redemption, salvation, and battles with God as effortlessly as Robertson.
On their newest album, Creatures of Habit, Robertson squares up with the big man upstairs, with loves that haunt, and even explores a conversation with his radiator. His lyricism is unparalleled in any our generation holds. The title track opens the album in a swirling, upbeat way, while close attention will catch the weight in his words: “what are you praying for / you can’t save me.”
While the title track is gripping, it is “East Bay” that leaves the longest lasting impression in the dust settling around my dormant heart with the whiskey you can nearly hear in Robertson’s voice coupled by his raw, stark honesty. “Devil’s Frown” finds the band experimenting with a twangier sound that echoes an alt-country feel. From that tune the album delicately drifts into “The Town With You in It,” a lament that will appeal to any heart that has been broken. “Surgery” picks the pace back up, as Robertson wrestles with a love that still grips his heart. “Butcher” embraces that vital sound that has come to be expected by the Choir: a rhythm that builds and begs its audience to dance and explode together in the sing-a-long chorus.
The slight experimentation—be it in the cello’s feed-through, the solos that burst forth from the guitars, or the minute stylistic changes in Robertson’s vocals — show such growth. The Choir—a band of fallen angels whose halos may have shattered in the gutter long ago, each pour themselves completely into their sound—proves its musicianship to be more cohesive than it ever has been, even with new members and guitarist Otis Duffy having relocated to another part of the country. Pick up a copy at a show near you. The album art is as beautiful as the music therein.
February 07 at Hideout in Chicago, IL
February 11 at Frankie’s in Toledo, OH
February 12 at Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights, OH