Artist Profile: The Ultrasounds

9 12 2010

I should preface this, our first feature artist profile here at Balafonic, with an admission of shameless bias.  I’ve known The Ultrasounds since its inception back in high school in Ann Arbor.  But even though I would count the band’s current and past members as old friends, I will try my best to not let this affect the writing to follow.

The Ultrasounds, now a 3-piece arena-rock outfit based out of Chicago, has much humbler roots in the High School and College party scenes of Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I remember back in 2003 when they were first getting started… their sound was, well, we’ll just call it raw and unrefined.  Throwback rock covers seemed to be their game, and it was obvious every time they played that what they lacked in mad skillz they made up for ten-fold with passion and dedication.  It was obvious these guys had the gene to make it, but they had a long road ahead.

Over the following years, as their sound and skills improved, the band’s membership and vibe changed dramatically.  By 2006, the band had gone from a 4-piece fly-by-night rock n’ roll semi-cover-band to a serious three-piece set bent on world domination.  With the addition of Sara Kay on drums and vocals, The Ultrasounds built a new, more forward-thinking roots rock vibe, influenced by bands like The Strokes, Elliot Smith and Phoenix.

As The Ultrasounds garnered more and more attention, voted Most Underrated Band by readers of Ann Arbor’s Current Magazine two years straight, also winning Best Rock Band in 2009, they continued writing music, playing shows and building up to a crescendo with the release of their second full-length, Give Up the Fight, in May 2010.

Give Up the Fight is a revelation.  On their myspace page, the band describes their new album as revealing “a band in its peak, with an eminently accessible, epic arena-rock sound,” and they really aren’t kidding.  Every song on this album is accessible and catchy.  Hell, most of them are even danceable.  But even the most poppy songs with the most mainstream vibes still manage to avoid a cliché and generic sound.  It is a testament to the gigantic strides this band has made in the seven years since its inception in terms of creative output.  Utilizing the record studio like never before, The Ultrasounds have created beautifully imaginative layered harmonizations and melodic phrases unachievable by a three-piece live set.  As The Ultrasounds mature, so do the intricate designs of their music, and boy is it exciting.

Coming up:

For those of you in Chicago, The Ultrasounds just landed a gig at The Underground Lounge as the regular band on Tuesday nights, so check ’em out!  They’re also competing in a Battle of the Bands to play at SXSW, and as of this posting they’re at number 1!  That doesn’t mean they don’t still need help to win though, so everyone take a minute to vote!

~travlife

The Ultrasounds Official Website (bandcamp)
The Ultrasounds Myspace

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