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  • Jonathan Widran

THE CHORDAES, What We Breathe In

With a fascinating hybrid vibe that fuses alternative indie rock, contemporary soft rock and soul with occasional and well placed classic rock influences, The Chordaes have been a popular and critical darling since the release of their full length debut Touch the Ground in 2016.

While continuing to play a variety of NYC hotspots, the trio’s momentum continued with their unusually titled 2017 EP In Itinere, which roughly translates in Latin to “during the journey.” That journey reaches a multi-faceted creative apex with the release of their latest EP What We Breathe In, which in only six songs finds a multitude of ways to capture the zeitgeist of millennials like themselves navigating the twists and turns of crazy modern America.

Driven by the deeply insightful lyrics of charismatic frontman and songwriter Leo Sawikin, The Chordaes – whose lineup include founding member/drummer Ethan Glenn and lead guitarist Kevin Foley – create varied musical backdrops to help illuminate narratives that tap into an evolving sensation of helplessness. Some are rooted in personal relationships, others audaciously address that feeling more universally as it pertains to their ever-shifting place in society.

Full of hypnotic grooves, dreamy vocal harmonies and jangly guitars and Beatlesque sitar vibes that help bridge past and present, the opening title track is a powerful anthem for this generation. It’s a heartfelt promise that while our political leaders may feel they have the power to strip away people’s rights and personal freedoms, they can’t steal our souls – i.e. our hopes, dreams and love that makes life worthwhile. Helping create the song’s transcendent, intergenerational sound is mixer Kevin Killen, whose countless credits include one of rock’s greatest anthems, U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Killen mixed all songs except "Venus," which was done by Mark Needham. The project was produced by two-time Grammy winner Marc Swersky.

What We Breathe In’s infectious first single “Venus” is far more personal in nature. It blends a soaring dreaminess with throbbing, grounded percussion to create the dual effect of what it’s like when we’re longing for a person who is out of reach but still holds sway over the heart. Unlike the classic song “Venus” of old, it’s less about a goddess assisting with love than becoming something of a fixed planet never able to achieve a higher orbit.

Though the production and vocals are thoroughly contemporary, several of the tracks have a decidedly cool 60’s and 70’s influence. In the lilting, soulful ballad “Got To Get Out” – whose title riffs off The Animals’ classic “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” – the protagonist dreams of escaping the polluted city and heading towards a pristine countryside before it’s plundered. That prospective sense of disillusionment manifests in an even more concrete way on “All My Life,” which pits its dark-hearted lyrics against a spirited, McCartneyesque, horn-fired arrangement. “Tuesday Afternoon” may have the same title as a Moody Blues chestnut, but its more direct influences are British Invasion heroes like The Kinks or the Zombies. Partly meditational, partly buoyant and lighthearted, the song is rife with emotional conflict as the narrator tries to sort out some deeply complicated personal feelings.

The EP also includes the introspective “This is How It Ends” (a plaintive realization that every emotional crime committed has a price) and the lyrical, folk influenced “Miles Across the Sea,” which showcases Leo’s lush 12-string guitar and finds him pondering, in a most impassioned manner, how he might deal with the emotional fallout of a relationship.

Photo by Nina Wurtzel Photography

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