Chicago garage stalwart James Swanberg enriches his carefree pop sound | Music Review | Chicago Reader

Chicago garage stalwart James Swanberg enriches his carefree pop sound 

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click to enlarge The One and Only by James Swanberg

The One and Only by James Swanberg

Courtesy the Artist

Over the past decade or so, whenever a garage band has played a Chicago show, you’ll have likely found James Swanberg somewhere on the premises, in the crowd or hawking merch or even onstage. For most of that time he’s operated under the name Today’s Hits, which began as a vehicle for the perfectly sloppy, lo-fi solo songs that he’d record and release by the hundreds, usually uploading them to Tumblr and Bandcamp. But Today’s Hits also function as a bona fide band—in 2017 they released a self-titled album through California garage label Burger Records, and they’ve occasionally played collaborative sets with Twin Peaks as Twin Hits. Swanberg’s new album, The One and Only (released via his own Tripp Tapes label), is the first billed to his given name; though he calls it his solo debut, these jubilant guitar-pop songs get their buoyancy from the years he’s already put into his craft. Colin Croom and Cadien Lake James of Twin Peaks produced the album, and they give it a lived-in earthiness and weight that keep its poppier impulses from carrying it off in an effervescent cloud. Swanberg is relentlessly joyful in his music—even on the ripping “Angry Young Man in America,” where he confronts bubbling anxiety and rage, he soaks his gritty riffs in uplifting sweetness.   v

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