The Slaps, an indie-rock Chicago-based band, describe themselves as “six arms, six legs and six fully-functioning eyeballs,” but there’s a soul to their music that supersedes their facetious physical form. The three-man band — consisting of Rand Kelly, Ramsey Bell and Josh Resing — has been around for only a few years, but in that time has significantly impacted the local music scene.
“A,” the band’s newest extended play, was released April 5. A month prior, the band dropped an anticipatory single, “Cheers,” which sought to generate hype around the release of the full EP. The record is very brief, containing only four full songs and an interlude, but that brevity in no way hinders its musical impact.
It is clear that The Slaps have prioritized quality over quantity. “A” delivers on the band’s signature beach-blues style in a series of sonically complex tracks that can and should be listened to multiple times, each containing a number of layers not only through their lyrics but also their composition.
Although as a whole “A” is a cohesive piece, it does not fall into the trap of being as one-note as some indie albums, with one song bleeding into the next. Rather, each song in the EP offers something a bit different, shifting in pace and mood, guiding listeners through a consistently engaging experience, incorporating vintage sounds with modern influences into a style all their own.
“Cheers” opens up the EP, slowly rising up to an energetic crescendo amplified by overlapping vocals and heavy drums, which emphasize the song without overtaking the piece’s melody. The harmonies and layered vocals are reminiscent of the iconic sound of early rock, like the Beach Boys.
That being said, the band successfully appropriates the style and, by mixing it with guitar riffs and a steady drum beat, innovates it into a whole new sound that defies traditional definition.
2. “Being Around”
The EP then transitions into “Being Around,” which slows the pace of the record. Ditching the drums and loud guitar riffs, this doo-wop love song speaks of the uncertainty of young love through raw, stripped-down vocals and a low-key guitar backing.
The second track is ridden with genuine feeling and deeply honest lyrics, making it a refreshing contrast to the more manic “Cheers.” The song’s vocals are in some ways reminiscent of early ’30s jazz crooners, but the intonation and remixing of the style with fresh, beachy chords combines the new with the old, cleverly making another innovative and charming track.
The flow of the piece is then split in half by a reverb-heavy, experimental interlude made up of samples of the band’s three instruments artfully composed into an instrumental break.
3. “Where Were You Where They Were Also”
The interlude’s sonic experience perfectly leads into the fourth track, “Where Were You Where They Were Also,” which opens with a series of jazzy, energetic hi-hats building in a manner similar to “Cheers,” but the similarities between the two tunes end there.
“Where Were You Where They Were Also” serves a much different purpose than the EP’s introductory single. It keeps the energy up and your ears perked, with clean vocals set to a dance-worthy beat. Instead of reeling back or fading out — as the preceding tracks do — the song escalates into a tumultuous climax. It ends in a well-incorporated series of sounds, crashes and voices that are emblematic of the clever producing many of The Slaps’ songs have.
“A” concludes with “Houses,” a reworked version of a single released last year. While it doesn’t stand out in the same way some of the other tracks in the EP do, it is still an incredibly clean piece. Honing in on a more traditional beach rock sound, the song dials it back while still incorporating the ensemble’s signature riffs and cymbal crashes.
Overall, The Slaps’ “A” is a worthy addition to the bands’ slowly growing discography. It serves as an impressive show of the band’s growth and evolution over just four short years. It is a testament that they continue to expand both into and beyond their signature style.
In short, “A” is an assertion that The Slaps are multi-faceted and innovative, and certainly a band to look out for in coming years. If they continue to approach their craft with the same level of skill and precision, the future looks bright.