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Tom Schraeder's New Album 'Gush!' Is An Epic Stunner

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 20, 2014 7:30PM

Photo and design by Isidro Hurtado, image courtesy Tom Schraeder.

Tom Schraeder is a hard one to pin down. In 2007 he released his debut EP, The Door, The Gutter, The Grave, to wide critical acclaim, the strength of which helped land him a spot on the 2007 Lollapalooza bill. His style was strongly rooted in a mixture of pop crossed with a rooster take on rock, all topped off by Schraeder's clear and powerful tenor. In the Chicago music scene his was one of the careers that looked set to take off and bring mainstream attention to a new voice of the city.

So what did Schraeder do? He decided to experiment with his sound, sometimes radically, and worked with a constantly rotating line-up of musicians. At times he'd play a show as a back alley troubadour, other times he'd take the stage with a large ensemble to deliver a polished show worthy of a ballroom. He traveled restlessly around the country, recording lo-fi experiments as he constantly strove to produce pieces based on true emotion and art. He scored and appeared in avant garde films that were meant to be visual albums. It sounds cliche, but it appears he actually spent the last few years relentlessly following his artistic muse in an effort to stay true to himself without regard for what anyone else would think about the outcome. The most literal celebration of this aesthetic is probably his founding of the month-long "Chicago, I Love You" music festival and arts happening; a true celebration and appreciation of others who found joy in creating and appreciation art, no matter what its form.

Photo and design by Isidro Hurtado, image courtesy Tom Schraeder.
So it came as a surprise to this writer last February when Schraeder sent me a new full-length CD he had just completed, titled Gush! * It was an astoundingly arranged and impeccably produced album, and it was obvious that all of his wandering was in pursuit of mining every corner in his interior musical universe that he could in order to produce something remarkable in both its sonic ambition and its emotional clarity. Gush! is a stunning collection of music that is lush and beautiful and filled with such a clear artistic vision that it is bound to once again launch murmurings of Schraeder's imminent rise to mainstream attention.**

From the opening tom rolls of Gush!'s first song "Duck Tape Ladder," it's obvious that the journey Schraeder is undertaking is no longer Polaroid snapshots of seconds in time, but a full 70mm experience. Strings sweep and swell, guitars trickle in and out of the mix, vocals filled with confidence maintain a center of focus and the whole song feels like a statement of purpose setting up the remainder of the album. It's followed by "Jungle Gym," as it pushes and pulls its galloping rhythms with guitars that nip at the heels of the beat and Schraeder takes his time with his own delivery in order to create a song full of tension that resolves itself each time the chorus pours forth. "Thrown Back Hair" is a stadium rocker in its ambition despite its attempts to remain humble.

Speaking of humble, not all of Gush! is huge, though we'd argue all of it is epic. On a song like "When We Were Young," Schraeder drops into full-on ballad mode, and while the music stays subtle for most of the tune's duration it can't help reaching for the heavens throughout the guitar solo in its final act. And the album closes with the grandiose "Chicago I Love You," focusing Schraeder's passion on the city that spawned him, but is easily seen as an allegory for the search of a perfect soulmate. The song itself builds into a crescendo of instruments clashing against each other before quietly trailing off. Has this search paid off? If that search is the previous couple years of Schraeder's artistic development and the answer is found in the result of Gush! as a whole, then the answer is a resounding yes.

Tom Schraeder will perform Gush! in its entirety Friday, Aug. 22, at Hideout, 1354 W Wabansia, 9 p.m., $10, 21+

You can pre-order Gush! by emailing hisegoinfo [at] gmail [dot] com to receive a download on Sept. 1.


*This isn't to be confused with singles Schraeder recorded under the "Gush" moniker released a few years ago. In fact trying to keep track of Schraeder's discography and the countless permutations of songs and EPs could be a full time job in itself.

**You'll note we said February. In another example of Schraeder's artistic restlessness, he almost shelved Gush!!!! Thank goodness he didn't.