God bless the surprise album release. Mainstream artists like Beyonce and Taylor Swift have brought it to the forefront, but no matter how many times it gets trotted out, it’s still a welcome shock. Throwing their name into surprise album release game is Chicago alt-rockers Eleventh Dream Day, who dropped an hour-long new LP, Since Grazed, completely unannounced.
Eleventh Dream Day may read like a supergroup, but that’s not exactly the case. Made up of underground Windy City rock figures Rick Rizzo, Janet Beveridge Bean, Doug McCombs, Mark Greenberg, and Jim Elkington, EDD have been around since the early ’80s. They’ve released thirteen albums, now fourteen, and were a pretty big deal right before noisy/melodic rock and roll became fab. When the band didn’t take off, the members began to find success in other projects like Tortoise, Freakwater, and The Sea and Cake.
The band is still a beloved Chicago institution, but they are a few degrees removed from any mainstream-adjacent artists, even their geographic and stylistic counterparts Wilco. Eleventh Dream Day aren’t Wilco. At least, they’re never going to be tagged as “dad-rock”, even if they have the same alt-country shuffle going for them. Eleventh Dream Day have the capacity to be badass in a ramshackle kind of way, the likes of which Jeff Tweedy hasn’t even thought about since his time in Uncle Tupelo.
But enough talk about others, because Since Grazed is fantastic. ‘Just Got Home (In Time To Say Goodbye)’ rides the country-storytelling line, ‘Yves Klein Blues’ is a frantically propulsive that name-checks the king of minimalist art, and ‘A Case to Carry On’ is the R.E.M. song that Peter Buck wished he wrote. Just when you think the album is about to slide to a permanent slow down, you get uptempo tracks with pop inflections like ‘Cracks in My Smile’ or spacey freak out likes ‘Take Care’. But it all comes back to that country shuffle, and album closer ‘Every Time This Day it Rains’ is a beautifully bittersweet send off.
Since Grazed is out now. Stream it, below.