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The 1900s  

After parting ways with two founding members and shelving the Fleetwood Mac-esque romantic drama, Chicago pop band The 1900s spent the years since their 2007 debut (Cold & Kind) updating their line-up and trademark sound.

After parting ways with two founding members and shelving the Fleetwood Mac-esque romantic drama, Chicago pop band The 1900s spent the years since their 2007 debut (Cold & Kind) updating their line-up and trademark sound. On the side, singer/guitarist Edward Anderson and vocalist Caroline Donovan and a few friends released a sparkling lo-fi album under the name Mazes; singer Jeanine O’Toole recorded and/or performed with Mahjongg, Vacations, Disappears, and did a little moonlighting in a square dance band; bassist Charlie Ransford fought the forces of evil at his dayjob; violinist Andra Kulans toured with Bill Callahan.

For the recording of their second full-length, Return of the Century (Parasol Records), The 1900s step away from the grand orchestration and retro obsessions of their previous work and expand on the pop elements – sublime vocal arrangements, catchy guitars, and lockstep rhythms – while blending artfully finessed home recordings with the pristine quality of high-end recording studios, including Soma and Clava in Chicago. Recording themselves at home allowed the band freedom to experiment, resulting in first-take guitar solos, sonic experimentation and more powerful vocal performances than were captured in the past. Drummers Graeme Gibson (Disappears) and Josh Johannpeter (Mahjongg, Lazer Crystal) and producer/arranger Benjamin Balcom also help lead the band into new territory.

The band’s last record, Cold & Kind, was about the rapture, or more specifically those who were “left behind”. Return of the Century tells the story about an underground world where people’s minds are held in thrall in the name of spiritual advancement.

The dual perspectives provided by alternating three lead singers throughout the album present a subtle narrative, guiding listeners through Return of The Century. The band notes that the album deals with a lot of strange issues; freewill, cult compounds and the loss of self, among others. Loosely inspired by the mysterious story of the Incredible String Band’s Christina ‘Licorice’ McKechnie, the prevailing theme regards a Woman (the “Kidnap Runaway”) who leaves Her home and Her dude for strange and troubling adventures in the desert. The vision for the album was further enhanced when Edward and Caroline spent the spring traveling through the Southwestern deserts, including a visit to William Jeffs’ bizarre polygamist compound in Colorado City, AZ. Unlike Licorice, who disappeared without a trace, the heroine in this story finally returns home – depicted in the harrowing climax “Jean Demon” – providing darker meaning to the seemingly sarcastic title Return of the Century. Far from doom and gloom, the 1900s tackle their typically steamy themes with humor and grace.

In addition to releasing an album and two EPs with Parasol Records, The 1900s have toured across America, appearing at Lollapalooza and supporting The Vaselines, Iron & Wine, Midlake, The New Pornographers, Black Mountain, Ted Leo, Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson and British Sea Power. The 1900s, now a sleek 6-piece, will be touring the US this fall, but fast-forward to December and the guys and gals will be playing in Merrie Olde England at the request of Belle & Sebastian at ATP’s ‘Bowlie 2’ happening December 10-12th.

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