Sound — 8
Neo-folk is that wicked combination of banjos, guitars, and synths which were made prominent by Modest Mouse and Blue Merle recently. Expanding neo-folk's requiem is the quintet Illinois from Bucks County, Pennsylvania whose interplay of instrument parts and reflexive action sounds so cool. Their debut EP What The Hell Do I Know on Ace Fu Records has catchy hooks and melodies emblazon with fun and tuneful rhythms. Their acoustic rock enhancements hit like My Morning Jacket with pumping synth-rock fuzz reminiscent of Hellogoodbye and funk-laden rhythms akin to Kill Hannah. Electro folk-rock numbers like the title track and Headphones have a countrified essence avowed to synth-guitar vibrations while strapped to rock-based rhythms. The strumming banjo on Nosebleed is brandished by a catchy drumbeat and rolling vocals as handclapping backbeats sustain the pulsating motions. Movements are repetitive without sounding mundane like the chord repetitions on Screen Door harboring a doo-wop momentum tangled in puffing horn segments and billowing waves of vocal harmonies. The tepid folk-rock tones on One On One are pleasingly versed with synth-rock flights reflective of The Zutons. The heavy, dark rhythms in Bad Day are catechized by gloomy vocals, which offsets the fervent chord fluxes on Alone Again, a profusion of soft synth-rock movements, breathy vocals, and lightly tapping drum strikes with streaks of bowed guitar chords that give the melody shots of vitality. The band's myspace page (myspace.com/Illinois) also has an additional track Irish Whiskey which merges soft synth-rock movements and funky club beats into a tuneful melody with a vibe liken to Love Arcade.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics express personal stories and speak about private oppressions like the track Alone Again when Goldbach sings, You say everything happens for a reason/ Not all of it is needed/ Then why do I feel so defeated/ She says 'I won't be laughed at home all alone again.' Lyrics are repeated so each song has a few lines, much like their chord progressions. Their series, both lyrical and musical, are repeated, but they don't feel drab or dreary. The repetitions enhance the melodies catchiness and fun.
Overall Impression — 8
The melodies are catchy and fun in the vein of Razorlight and The Kooks. There is a youthful vibe in Illinois' songs even in the gloomy tune Bad Days. They make good use of repeating their series without making the songs sound humdrum. The music is easy going with flashes of vitality in the guitar chords and funky club rhythms. The album is fun and very likeable and demands little from the listener other then to enjoy their music.