Power-pop On The Rise: Ryan Powers And The Secret Weapons, Daniel Wade
By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 5, 2013 7:00PM
Ryan Powers (left) and Daniel Wade (right) are leading Chicago's power-pop charge. Photo credit: Mike Hari
Sometimes it's easy to overlook excellent music when it's right under your nose. That was the case with Ryan Powers And The Secret Weapons' latest LP, The Goodnight, Goodbye Hour. It came out last May but we only recently got a chance to give it a good listen and it's quickly becoming one of our favorite local releases of 2013.
Powers and his Weapons are part of what appears to be a burgeoning power pop movement in the city that, to these eyes at least, seems to be in response to an indie scene that can be a little overly serious. Chicago has a rich musical environment but it seems like the guitar pop bands tend to get lumped into a category that garners less respect. Is it the sunny melodies and toe-tapping rhythms that causes this?
Actually it's probably the perception that writing optimistic songs with a sunny vibe is simple work; where's the suffering that must be inherent in all great art?! This misses two simple facts, 1) who says there's no suffering in sunshine and 2) have you ever really listened closely to some of these songs? If you had you'd realize that many of them are insanely complex musically once you start breaking them down.
Secret Weapons' guitarist Daniel Wade is an emerging talent in this vein as well. His two solo EPs this year are also firmly in our local faves folder. So it seems worthwhile to talk about all of this music as a somewhat collected work since, once you look at the liner notes on these releases, it becomes obvious this is a scene built on the same cast of players.
Powers is the more straightforward of the two songwriters and while he subtly plays with some of the conventions—"You've Got Us" bites a bit of Caribbean swagger to push it's melody along—The Goodnight, Goodbye Hour takes his rootsy songwriting style and builds up baroque layers of harmonies and different guitar textures playing against each other.
Wade's own mixture is based on aggressive verses balanced by stretched out sing-along choruses, and his presentation is a bit more forward leaning. If Powers is the guy chasing girls, Wade is the one leaning against the high school wall, cigarette dangling from lower lip, waiting for the girls to come to him. It's all adolescent adrenaline rush here and it's hard not to get swept up in Wade's wake as his songs rush by.
When you pull all this music together you start to see work that, despite being carried forth by two distinct voices, creates a strong argument. That the power-pop scene in Chicago is proving it's just as intricately and inventively constructed as the artiest of rockers. Maybe it's time for the larger Chicago scene to take this "silly sunshine" music a little more seriously. This writer is certainly convinced.