Chicago indie quintet Bound Stems play Howler's | Music Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Chicago indie quintet Bound Stems play Howler's 

In September, Flameshovel Records will release The Family Afloat, the sophomore disc by Chicago quintet Bound Stems. But a vinyl edition is already available and on sale during the group's current summer tour, which swings through Howler's on Sat., July 26.

Don't wait -- get it.

For one thing, the band could use some extra gas money as it makes its way across the country. But more significantly, The Family Afloat has a heaping amount of brainy lyrics and jumpy music -- dreamy one moment, punchy the next -- that will have the cognoscenti slobbering come the fall. Why not beat them to the punch?

Bobby Gallivan, the band's guitarist and lead vocalist, combines the best qualities of Colin Meloy (the Decemberists) and Dan Bejar (Destroyer, the New Pornographers). Like Meloy, his lyrics sketch out an entire setting for the story he's singing, and their voices share a similar nasal quality as well. But Gallivan also comes off as an eccentric narrator, similar to Bejar's idiosyncratic songs. And if his words seem to have a historical quality, it's because Gallivan knows what he's singing about: When the band returned from a relentless tour schedule in 2006, he took a job as a history teacher.

Comparisons aside, Bound Stems have developed their own musical thing, and The Family Afloat reveals layers of ideas with each listen. Janie Porche's harmonies and occasional lead vocals bring an expansive quality to Bound Stems' sound. From the two-section opener "Taking Tips from the Gallery Gang" to the almost thrashy closer "Sugar City Magic," the music doesn't offer any chances to lose interest.



Bound Stems with Life in Bed, Ponytail and What's What. 9 p.m. Sat., July 26. Howler's Coyote Café, 4509 Liberty Ave., Bloomfield. $7. 412-682-0320

click to enlarge Band afloat: Bound Stems
  • Band afloat: Bound Stems
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