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Who? Not even together two whole years, Chicago’s 1997 sure have made quick of things. After cutting their teeth in various local crews, the five members banded together under their nostalgic moniker in October 2005 and, despite a penchant for bright and youthful indie rock, snagged a deal a year later with the predominantly hardcore-oriented Victory Records. Vocalist Kevin Thomas, drummer Nick Coleman, guitarist Caleb Pepp, bassist Alan Goffinski, and newest addition singer/keyboardist Alida Marroni — who recently replaced original member Kerri Mack after the band’s debut was complete — quickly transitioned from jamming together over a few acoustic guitars to turning heads at area gigs. 1997’s debut album, A Better View of the Rising Moon, dropped earlier this month.

What’s the Deal? 1997 may primarily look to ’90s emo staples like the Promise Ring and Mineral for inspiration, but additional cues from various singer/songwriters give their lively and emotional melodies a distinct edge that sets them closer to Bright Eyes than Fall Out Boy or even Jimmy Eat World. The surprisingly strong male/female harmony vocals and rich instrumentation — easily incorporating banjo and harmonica alongside the standard pleading choruses — truly give these songs a charm not usually heard in Windy City all-ages clubs. “Garden of Evil” is the sonic equivalent to a wide-eyed romp through a rural field on a sunny day, while the spirited “In Your Car” falls close to a younger, less rustic version of the Forecast.

Fun Fact: The band’s first practice space was actually an attic apartment in suburban Lombard that two members had recently taken up residence. Luckily, 1997’s late-night sessions were hardly a burden on neighbors — it was conveniently located above an elderly neighbor who was hard of hearing. COREY APAR

Now Hear This:
1997 – “Water’s Edge” DOWNLOAD MP3

On the Web:
1997 at MySpace

Talk: How fresh — or dated — are 1997’s tunes?