It is difficult to listen to the 1900’s sophomore release, Return of the Century, without feeling slightly out of era. The Chicago-based sextet revel in pop economy, their clean lines broadcasting a similar vibe refined by The Smiths throughout the 1980s.
It’s been three years since the group’s debut, Cold & Kind, during which side-projects and line-up shifts have affected both the songwriting and instrumentation of The 1900s. Gone is the tendency toward lush instrumentation, in its place is succinct, pale instrumentation, and an album-threading storyline that is loosely inspired by the Incredible String Band’s Christina ‘"Licorice" McKechnie, who disappeared without a trace in 1990. Without this context, the album is strong; it emanates isolation with an indie sterility that is – well, fitting. But given the story, the music takes on a longing that is palpable. Nowhere is this clearer than on the “Lay A Ghost” with its spare rhythm and “Overreactin’” with its haunting chorus, “Running away, You’re always running away.
The 1900s have crafted a hipster pop masterpiece with Return of the Century. It is slick, but textured; stoic, yet emotive. It’s been three years since the band’s last outing, but Return of the Century is, quite honestly, a welcome return.
Return of the Century is out now on Parasol Records.