Words by Lauren Gill

California Wives’ story is not atypical. Their sound is not atypical. But yet, there is still something about their debut album, Art History, that is unique and makes you want to listen just a little bit closer. The foursome, hailing from not California, but Chicago, formed when lead singer Jayson Kramer, decided to forgo medical school and instead chase down his dream of being a musician. The result? An LP influenced by electronic sounds but still rooted in rock music.

It comes as no surprise that Art History was produced by Claudius Mittendorfer, with its spacey, synth heavy sound being reminiscent of Neon Indian and Interpol, two other bands he’s worked with. California Wives sound is full, but at the same time doesn’t overpower you. There’s chugging guitars, as evidenced on album closer, ‘Better Home’, and a bit of mystery within each track.

Most of the Art History centers around stories of youth, with ‘Marianne’ being an upbeat piece of storytelling about a teenage heartbreaker. The beauty of California Wives is that they can tell stories that aren’t the most glamorous, but still manage to get you bobbing your head while doing it. One of the strongest tracks on the album is undeniably the second to last song, ‘Blood Red Youth’. Its build up into an all out tirade against “What those people did to you in your blood red youth”, in an impossibly catchy manner.

In the band’s bio, Kramer points out, “songwriting is always the most important thing for us”. This stance comes across on Art History, with California Wives laid-back, but distinctive sound and dedication to storytelling. If I were to sum up the debut in one word, it would most definitely be “refreshing”. It is eleven songs that follow one clear direction, but vary enough to avoid sounding monotonous.

The verdict? Kramer made the right decision. Music is definitely his, and California Wives’ thing.

California Wives
“Art History”
Vagrant Records
© September 4th, 2012



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