There aren’t many bands that can immediately hop into the festival circuit and put together a decent following without an album, but somehow The Heard has accomplished just that. The funky Chicago-based seven-piece formed about five years ago when guitarist Taras Horalewskyj moved back home after finishing up his schooling at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. Fast forward to today and the band has finally released their debut, self-titled album and it is even better than one would expect who’s either seen them live or stumbled upon some of the amazing clips on YouTube.
The talented cast hit the studio with Orgone’s Sergio Rios producing. They wound up with an 11-song debut that is stellar from start to finish by any measurement. Upon talking with the group, they explained that Sergio had the band track the rhythm section (guitars, keys, drums, and bass) together, live in one room and recorded it to tape. The album reflects not only that spontaneous interplay, but more so than anything a sound that walks a perfect line between the raw energy of a live show and the clarity of a studio recording. You hear each member’s individual contributions, but it’s blended and delivered in a way that feels like you’re front row at their show and can feel their energy.
The album creeps in with a song appropriately titled “The Weight,” featuring a heavy bass line and provides a quick glance as to how these guys can lay down a solid groove. It’s apparent from the start how talented this group is as a whole with a stirring organ solo, rhythmic syncopation between the guitar and drums, and colorful horn melodies.
As the album progresses, we get a chance to hear how the band sounds with vocals added to the mix on the track “Gimme Gimme.” Even though this is the only song with vocals throughout, it doesn’t feel out-of-place. If anything, it’s one of the best on the album and fans can look forward to (hopefully) more since the male voice heard is none other than new keyboardist, Cole DeGenova. We’re also treated to the sweet background harmonies of Orgone’s Adryon DeLeón.
Another standout on the album is “Knight Life.” The groove and intensity slowly builds over the course of the song, before things turn dark around the halfway point. The transition to the heavy bass focus is backed by an eerie organ and a stumbling drum part that pushes the track to a climax before its abrupt ending.
While all but one track are mostly instrumental, the band does a great job at giving songs their proper structure. On “Safari Time” you can feel the verse transition to a pre-chorus before diving into one of the best choruses on the album. The momentum and power it creates is balanced and intensified by the other riffs in the song. The bluesy piano solo is reminiscent of the group’s Chicago heritage and blends beautifully with the funk groove.
For a band’s debut album, one could easily mistake the chemistry and energy The Heard put forth with a seasoned group’s veteran release. The production quality captured and the band’s natural knack for putting together monster groove will leave you with a feeling of hope of where this kind of trajectory will take them. Only time will tell, but for those unlucky folks who haven’t Heard, run over to their SoundCloud page now and stream the album in its entirety.
Key Tracks: Gimme Gimme, Knight Life, Safari Time