Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Formed by roommates ultramark (yes, ultramark) and Ryan McCarthy in Chicago in 2009 and later expanding to a four-person roster for touring purposes, Stepdad is an enormously fun electro-pop band that has released one of the best and most infectious EPs I've heard this year. The band's debut, Ordinaire, was first released in 2010, but this remastered and expanded version (stretched to the LP-appropriate length of 40 minutes) seems to be making the rounds more quickly - and I'm certainly glad it found its way to me.

The EP begins with the thunderous, brooding "Jungles," but from there on out you'll find brighter, more Nintendo-flavored pop tunes full of both gleeful electronic riffs and ultramark's soaring vocals. The album ranges from driving 8-bit anthems ("Wolf Slaying as a Hobby") to disarmingly sweet ballads ("Parrot") and is strong throughout, but the standout here is the oddball pop tune "My Leather, My Fur, My Nails," which best exemplifies the band's way of squeezing constant hooks from their unique electronic palette.

The real appeal of Ordinaire lies the band's ability to make sonic sugariness and geeky sentimentality not just a gimmick but a genuinely effective and enjoyable part of their pop sound. For those with a musical sweet tooth, Stepdad should hit the spot.

Listen to "My Leather, My Fur, My Nails" below and make sure to check out the band's Bandcamp page to stream/purchase the full thing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Local Flavor: The No-Nation Orchestra

Thus far, local music hasn't been much of a focus on Chewing Gum for the Ears, but when I find something special so close to home, I'm not exactly one to keep it to myself. The No-Nation Orchestra, led by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Stephen Chai, is one group in the SLC area reminding me of the talent and creativity abundant here if you're simply willing to look around a bit.

Chai has been involved in a handful of bands over the past few years, but none more exciting than this latest project, which finds him leading a skillful quartet that blends elements of Afrobeat and Latin jazz with a melodic pop approach. The band's upcoming debut EP, entitled More More More, is set to drop later this month and serves as a convincing introduction to the excellence of the No-Nation Orchestra.

On the opener/title track (which you can hear below) Chai floats his soulful falsetto over groovy, complex rhythms and killer horn riffs, while "Holy Holy" throws in a flashy piano line and an almost sinister vocal melody you'll find difficult to get out of your head. If I had to pick, I'd say the incendiary "Find Me The Savory Sound" is my current favorite -- but that's like to change tomorrow as each of the EP's five tracks have only gotten better with every spin.

Whether you're looking for the best of what Salt Lake City has to offer or perusing the web for a genuinely inspired new band, Stephen Chai & The No-Nation Orchestra is a must-listen. Hear the single below and check out the band's homepage for pre-orders. Also, if you're a local, make sure to catch them at Urban Lounge on September 23rd for the album release show.