Episode #25 – May 7, 2014

jakeThis week’s episode features a pair of alt-country tracks from the smokin’ new EP by Jake Ilika & The Heavy Set, in addition to music from twangy Eau Claire folk-punks The Heart Pills, guitarless lo-fi punk trio Kitten Forever, melodic garage rockers Rabbit Holes, dream pop shoegazers Puff Puff, and MPLS electronic pop duo DENNIS.

The new self-titled EP from Jake Ilika & The Heavy Set is a sophisticated and impressive debut. It boasts both high production value and well crafted songs, and for good reason.  The songs and their arrangements benefited from the luxury of developing organically at Jake’s weekly residency at the friendly Ed’s (no name) Bar in Winona. The band also sought out top-notch recording environments in Minneapolis, with producers Dylan Nau (Apolla Cobra, Nicholas David) and country singer-songwriter Erik Koskinen also contributing musically.

This polish pays off in a big way right from the get-go on the opener, Hate Coming Here. Jim Trouten’s lush melodies on the lap steel guitar, along with spacious back-up vocals and pensive lyrics, really help this song land a quick gut punch of emotional weight that both sound and feel similar to the heaviness, heartbreak, and desolation found in Beck’s 2002 album Sea Change or Mazzy Star’s 1993 hit Fade into You. Musically, this is alt-country at its finest.

Thief of a Lover, along with the other song featured in this episode, Minnesota Homegrown, were the two tracks recorded with Koskinen. Both songs showcase Ilika’s warm delivery and vocal dexterity in a big way. Imagine a cocktail party where the guest-list includes the sensitive world-weariness of Neil Young’s falsetto, the laid back softness of Jack Johnson’s baritone, the fullness and pride of Johnny Cash’s lower range, and a modest dose of John Mayer’s raspiness. Add in Koskinen’s country-fried plucking underneath Ilika’s versatile crooning on the chorus of Minnesota Homegrown, and it’s obvious that something special has been captured here.

At 6 minutes in length, the song I played in episode #6, Beggin’ for a Taste, still looms large for me and is arguably the EP’s most powerful accomplishment. Another Neil Young comparison is warranted here, this time for the relaxed intro and solos, in addition to the bittersweet minor-key cadences found in the verses. The song ends on an especially robust note with Trouten and bassist Jamie Groth joining Ilika for a build up of repeated group vocals that climaxes at 5 minutes and 30 seconds into the song with a soulful vibrato on Ilika’s lead vocal part.

It’s been a real pleasure to get to know, and really listen to, Jake Ilika and the Heavy Set’s music since their formation in January of 2013. Their debut EP is stellar snapshot of not only their talents and experience, but also some serious potential. I’m looking forward to enjoying a full length release sometime in the near future!

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Jake Ilika & The Heavy Set
“Hate Coming Here”
Jake Ilika & The Heavy Set EP

Jake Ilika & The Heavy Set
“Minnesota Homegrown”
Jake Ilika & The Heavy Set EP

The Heart Pills

Kitten Forever
“Famous Friends”
Guilt Ridden Pop

Rabbit Holes
“It’s Not Alright”
It’s Not Alright Single (b/w I Ain’t Coming Back Tonight)
Big Action Records

Puff Puff
“Til The End”

Ice Cold EP


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