Having never heard the music of Family Groove Company before, I was intrigued to hear what the buzz is about. After listening to the Chicago quartet's new album Models & Metrics, I am left still wondering what the buzz is all about. There is very good musicianship displayed throughout this release, however as with most bands that rely on the experience of playing live their music does not seem to translate well in the studio.
This Midwestern group consisting of Jordan Wilkow on keys/vocals, Mattias Blanck on drums, Adam Lewis on guitar, and Janis Wallin on bass credit Models & Metrics as their fourth full-length album since the bands inception in 2002, and their second this year (Live in Chicago). It may take a few more tries before this collective gets it right in the studio, but since they are relatively young there is still time for that to happen.
There is no doubt that this band knows how to get down. Their sound weaves between the 70s soft-rock of Steely Dan, the 90s jam-rock of Phish or even God Street Wine, and the modern jazz of Medeski Martin and Wood. It definitely has a sweet groove to it, and I can see their music showing more boldness in a live performance.
Where they seem to fall revolves mostly around the songwriting and vocals. The lyrical sections on this release leave a bit to be desired, and Wilkow's voice sounds too much like a struggling Al Stewart or a less-than-smoky Trevor Garrard. It does not bode well for the songs that are fairly rich in groove and flow, making me wonder if they would function much better as an instrumental group, evident in such numbers as "Tutear" and "The World is Watching (Part Two)".
Nevertheless, there is some energetic jamming throughout many of these songs which lead me to believe that Family Groove Company would be a worthy band to check out live. They have, after all, been serious road warriors this year with appearances at the larger festivals such as Wakarusa and Summercamp. The studio magic may not be present yet, but I am guessing the stage magic is downright funky.