Read a new interview with Sexy Ester here.
It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since Sexy Ester emerged on the Madison horizon. Since 2008 the band has transformed itself from a back-porch folk outfit to a power-pop quintet, dropped the “and the Pretty Mama Sisters” from their moniker, won several group awards and individual accolades, become one the most exciting and fun live acts on the local circuit and honed their eighties rock revivalism to a finely polished sheen. This eight-song release is the band’s fifth and one that begs them to stretch out a bit, a fact that the band seems acutely aware of and delivers on. One would agree that to hear Sexy Ester live is an eye (and ear)-popping experience; the electricity of a packed club wiping away any bridled expression as the band frequently exceeds the sum of their parts. There is a real and daunting challenge then for a band like Sexy Ester to capture that magic in a bottle on record.
Largely driven by her amazing register and power, vocalist Lindsey Evans is undoubtedly the focal point of the band and rightly so. When she leans back and lets loose onstage it is ultimately captivating. You won’t see too many people staring at their stupid phones at a Sexy Ester gig. She commands attention and has the stage presence and talent to do so. She shines prominently again on this recording, her undeniable love of singing is dominating. Still, every Jagger needs their Richards, and this has logically fallen to her guitar-playing husband Adam Eder, who has grown increasingly comfortable in that role. Surprisingly, however, keyboardist Roscoe Evans (Lindsay’s brother) has risen to the challenge as well. Roscoe sings backup vocals with authority now and even takes the lead on “The Business of Love,” the first indication that Sexy Ester is stretching out their sound. The song has a funkiness and a swagger that isn’t too far off from Some Girls-era Stones. If their sound is successfully going to mature it does seem logical that it may fall to the keyboard department. On “Lovesick,“ the album’s obvious hit, Roscoe again rises to the challenge, the keyboards becoming more muscular while his backup vocals on the chorus really drive the hook home. “Lovesick” also illuminates the power of the rhythm section of drummer Paul Kennedy and Brad Schubert who has developed into one of Madison’s most solid rock bassists.
The album’s crowning achievement is “Ghosts of Mifflin,” a complete re-think of the Sexy Ester sound. The song is an homage to the radicalism of Madison in the sixties and seventies and, as such, becomes entirely relevant in light of recent events in the city. Highly keyboard driven, the song also uses Eder’s talents to great effect, his muted tone driving the song forward while the added processing to Lindsey’s vocals is most effective.
The band has wisely chosen to add production help from Clutch Studios. Brian Liston is credited as co-producer and also engineered along with another rising star, Meghan Rose. Besides making the keyboards more prominent, they’ve really beefed up Eder’s guitar tones resulting in an increased urgency to the material. Check out the other hit track “Pin-Up” and also “Mickey Layla” where Eder really comes through. The backing vocals on the latter are also quite effective and something very different for Sexy Ester.
The band reaches back to the late fifties/early sixties with the closer, “Money. Money. Money.” which employs similarly effective backup vocals and puts the wop down. The keyboards on the coda are near perfect and the processed guitar doing battle is also a strong stride forward. Though it has a bit of a throw-back vibe, the lyrics bear a relevancy to today’s screwed up Koch Brothers world.
Sexy Ester’s legion of fans are going to love this record and it should win them some new followers as well. It’s a transition record, one from the familiar to the bravely new and Sexy Ester is nothing if not brave; fearless in fact, and that fearlessness breeds hope, the promise that rock has always offered.