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.
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Review Tue Oct 01 2013

American Bonfires and Dancing Bottles: Ballroom Boxer in Review

One of my favorite aspects of the Chicago music scene is its effortless ability to cultivate fledgling bands into big name talent. With such a vibrant and diverse scene, you can easily catch a show at a plethora of small music venues, huddled amongst other music fanatics, and spot a glimpse of an act that will grow over time due to Chicago's strong local fan base and the pride it takes in its music culture. Watching these bands cultivate their sound and harbor a local fan base at the same time is an amazing feeling, as you follow them from their start.

I've seen Ballroom Boxer grow immensely since their opening debut just two summers ago, with their album release titled Summer Mixes & Backseat Dreams. They've played sets at SXSW and at numerous Chicago venues since its advent, all the while preparing for the release of their second album. Their debut recalls a feeling of wistful nostalgia, peppered with upbeat, summery numbers laden with heavy rock flair. Though cohesive and well-produced, the album definitely gives leeway for growth in the future, as the group was still finding their footing, potential just seeping from the stereo as the record is played. The direction a band can take with their second release is crucial; did they produce a solid album on their first jaunt, and are they now unable to replicate this formula? Do they take their sound in an unprecedented direction that is not as well received?

In my opinion, the second release marks the measure of the band: it's a make or break factor for their consistency, credibility, and ultimately, their staying power. Ballroom Boxer's second release, Sundownr, slated for release on Tuesday, October 8, takes the group's signature sound and molds it into a new form, presenting it as stronger and wiser, all the while becoming more daring as it saunters through the world of indie rock while packing a hidden punch.

While Ballroom Boxer's first release was carefree and jubilant, the second release is a bit more intense, a hint to more raw material. Standout tracks include opening track "American Bonfire," gritty rock oscillating in the background, assertive vocals recalling the daring quality of Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos blended with the power and reach of The Killers' Brandon Flowers.

You don't know where you been / You never could have seen it, lead singer Mike Altier wails out, the song's deeper themes of life's direction resonating from the snapshot scene of a summer night, long drives, and, just as the song intends, American bonfires. The second track is also a bold opener, aptly named "Where The Bottles Dance." With a playful guitar melody in the background, the darker vocals subvert the ballad into a more pensive and introspective tone. "High School Slow Dances" features a cheeky guitar solo opener, leading into dark verses interrupted by an unwavering chorus, It's always high school, baby / you best believe it. The sound on this album has a goal in mind: to capture a glimpse of youth in modern America on a summer night, where days are carefree, and the nights as everlasting as the sun that preceded them.

Though the sound appears different with this release, more resonating and hard-hitting, the new direction the group is traveling to is welcomed, as they truly zone in on their sound and temper it. The album cover upon first glance reflects the group's personality: a woman pursing her lips at the camera, wearing slitted American flag sunglasses, carefree and embracing life's serendipitous nature. That's what their signature sound reflects upon the notion of: serendipity. Finding intricate meaning within portraits of our everyday lives is what the new release tends to communicate. The sound is cleaner, the production finer, and the vocals more bold. With this second standout release, they're on track to amass their own loyal following in Chicago and beyond.

Come take a listen to Ballroom Boxer for yourself, as they host a release party for Sundownr on Wednesday, October 2. From 6pm-9pm at The Revel Room in Wicker Park, enjoy the first official play of their newest album a week prior to its official release while sipping drinks sponsored by Sixpoint Brewery. The Revel Room is located at 1566 North Milwaukee Avenue, (773) 278-1600.

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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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