Over the course of its first two EPs and LP, Chicago indie-pop band The 1900s developed an expansive, heavily orchestrated sound, informed equally by sunny ’60s singles, moody ’70s country-rock, and modern DIY. For the band’s second album, Return Of The Century, it’s shed some members and scaled back the arrangements, while applying some radio-ready sheen. Though The 1900s claim that Return Of The Century is a concept album about a subterranean cult—and though the songs are as structurally complicated as ever—the immediate impression the record gives off is of tight harmonies and hands clapping in unison over sweet strings and jangly guitars. This is bright, upbeat music; even the me-first anthem “Lay A Ghost” has such a snappy beat and ingratiating melody that it generates goodwill. Is the next great pop song on here? Not exactly. Like a lot of these polished indie albums, Return Of The Century is more about the overall vibe than distinct, individual highs. But “Bmore” and “Babies” are remarkable for the way they start with strong melodies and then take unexpected turns, spinning off little crystalline designs, just for the beauty of it.
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