Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


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Concert Wed Oct 24 2007

Scotland Yard Gospel Choir: A Review


I can offer very little insight into the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir as a band or as people. I’ve never seen them in concert, or shared omelets and tea with them at the Pick Me Up Café (but thankfully Tom Lynch has, and you can check out his great New City expose here). Truthfully, and I realize I’m venturing into uncharted waters here, I’ve never actually heard their music. I’m unfamiliar with the first record, I Bet You Say That To All the Boys, the self-released one before Matthew Kerstein left to form Brighton, MA. So as a result, I can only offer a newborn’s look at the SYGC world and their second album, the aptly title Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, out now on Bloodshot Records, and which I just picked up yesterday from my local record shop. What follows is my reaction.

Things get off to fast start with “Aspidistra”, a buoyant pop tune that concerns old days spent buying drugs, in which the narrator refuses to regret his past indulgences while focusing on current and future abstinence. A brilliant and fast opener, “Aspidistra” reaches its point of climax, its point of potential musical explosion, only to end abruptly. Immediately, the listener is left wanting more. It’s a neat device used throughout most of the album, where the songs feel like they’re going to erupt or deconstruct only to race to an early conclusion. The tracks of principal songwriter, Elia Einhorn, aren’t ditties despite their consistently short length; they’re fully formed stories breathed full of life and heart and emotion, traits increasingly unseen in today’s indie pop (in fact, I daresay that of all recent Chicago pop releases, this one has the most mettle). Soon-to-be crowd favorite, “I Never Thought I Could Feel This Way For a Boy”, bounces a schoolyard yarn about a young boy falling for another young boy, and the fear of chastisement from his other classmates. There is tenderness and joy here, balanced by terror and loneliness and the desire “to be loved by everyone at the end of the day”. It's this careful balance that helps provide the core of this record. But although Elia could easily lapse into misplaced melancholy, the album is not a downer but an uplifting look at fighting for comfort and love and a place to call home. “Broken Front Teeth” is a stunner that showcases the vocal and emotional range of cellist Ellen O’Hayer. A traditional-sounding folk ballad, it layers a simple acoustic guitar with a mournful accordion, while she peruses old photos that collect memories and fuel nostalgia. If there's a criticism to be made, it's with the closing gospel free-for-all, "Everything You Paid For", which doesn't quite go where I feel it needs to in order to unleash all of the sounds reigned in on the previous eight tracks. But that's an inconsequential quibble that more reflects my personal taste than the band's short-comings.

Atmospherically, I kept thinking of those cold winter days, the ones in mid-January where the sun peaks through with fleeting warmth for an hour before disappearing behind a wall of clouds. Sonically, and despite utilizing a kitchen sink approach of 19 different musicians, the blissful chamber pop never feels over-stuffed or too crowded with instruments and sounds. Everything and everyone has its place in the world of the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, and the textures created add up to a supremely satisfying (and unnerving and beautiful) finished product.

My guess and my hope is that the themes contained here will resonate far beyond Chicago’s city walls and that as the band grows, the fan base will grow too. This release carries with it inherent expectations of a long and fruitful and challenging career but fear not, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. You can always call Chicago home.

This sophomore effort is out now on Bloodshot Records and can be purchased at your local record store. Check out Scotland Yard Gospel Choir at their record release party this Friday, Oct. 26 at the Empty Bottle. Kelly Hogan and DJ Stinky Pinky open.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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