band crush: california wives

we like a good name—and love a good indie pop album.

by rebecca willa davis

What's in a name? If you're a band, a lot. You could be the second coming of The Beatles, but if you're going by something boring, forgettable, or—gasp—lame, you'll have a tough time of making a lasting impression.

So right off the bat, I'm going to tell you that California Wives have at least one thing going for them: a good name. It rolls off the tongue, sticks in your head, and instantly conjures up an image (and maybe even a soundtrack) of what this band might be about—but because you're not sure, you want to give them a listen and find out.

And that's when you find out that not only does California Wives have a good name, but they also play instantly likeable indie pop music. The Chicago four-piece—no, they are neither based in California nor anyone's wife—craft complex songs that somehow balance propulsive, soaring guitar licks and catchy keyboard lines with a slow-paced, mellow (dare we say, Midwestern) demeanor. Even when lead vocalist Jayson Kramer kicks things up a notch on album opener “Blood Red Youth,” his voice morphing into a yelp, you still get the feeling that he wouldn't think twice about holding a door open for an old lady.

The band's been together since 2009, when Kramer ditched a career in medicine for a decidedly less reliable one in music and moved back to his hometown, but only now are they making their full-length debut with Art History, which comes out today. We've got a stream of the entire album, which should tide you over until the band plays your city (they've got a big US fall tour kicking off next week) and you can buy a copy of the album from their merch table. With a name like theirs, we don't blame you for wanting to check them out—but you'll be even more impressed once you pres play.