I feel somewhat guilty (as I always do) throwing a band up here that I have the nasty suspicion must of you guys knew about even before I did. But since Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is a Chicago-brand outfit and you gotta pimp the home team, I figured a quik-pik featurette couldn't hurt. They're also at the Double Door June 5th, so this seems timely.
SYGC came into existence way back in 2001 and was "started by two college graduates with degrees in music." This sentence in album reviews always cracks me the hell up. I see the need to rush and remind all the kiddies to stay in school instead of joining the indie-pop circus (no I don't), but the fact that reviewers seem to sound so shocked as they type it down gets me. SYGC it's pretty obvious the training involved. I'm not saying college degree = exceptional songwriting and intricate musicality, but in order to manage the kind of tight-knit pinwheels SYGC does on a track by track basis you have to be practicing.
Weaving, ducking and dodging with horn and string, drum and voice, almost every song is catchy and pop-tastic-- except they seem to be written for the sad and maligned, the people in their rooms with their heads to the wall. Their cuts are sweet and clean and pop, but the lyrics directly address drug abuse, mental illness, sexual identity, personal grief, failed expectations, and choking alienation. Their last record in particular (the self-titled Scotland Yard Gospel Choir) seems to have wandered away from their Belle & Sebastian beginnings into a world of drawn blinds and empty playgrounds (and freaking remarkable hooks). Lead singer Elia is intent on examining life's darker roads in an effort to come to terms with them, not just for himself but for the listeners as well. And if anything it just makes their songwriting better.