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Bound Stems, ‘The Family Afloat’ (Flameshovel)

Drifters, abandoned families, and college kids populate the stories on Bound Stems’ second album, as singer (and Chicago high school educator) Bobby Gallivan explores how people randomly connect amid turmoil and travel. The group has tightened its frenetic, tempo-switching songwriting and stitched together nine panoramic anthems (plus one instrumental) packed with ecstatic shout-along codas, crunchy-drippy Modest Mouse guitar, and Gallivan’s Saddle Creek warble. The songs often end up miles away from where they started, but the characters and melodies persist. If Isaac Brock had found inspiration in community, rather than isolation, The Moon & Antarctica might have sounded something like this.