Peoria, Illinois’ The Forecast have spent the last decade churning out plainspoken midwestern emo and country-tinged rock to relatively little fanfare. Perhaps that lack of recognition is unsurprising for there is nothing flashy to what they do: no costumes or theatrics (visual or musical), no overt artsy-ness, no craven catering to either the over or underground. The Forecast specialize in honest, hardworking nose-to-the-grindstone Rock and Roll — and they do it very, very well. If they never rise above cult status, it at least appears that their cult has got their backs: Everybody Left was funded by fan donations via Kickstarter.
And while Kickstarter can be a dodgy prospect at times, in this case it is hard to imagine anyone walking away disappointed. Everybody Left recaptures the spark of the band’s finest work, 2006’s In The Shadow Of Two Gunmen, and if nothing here quite matches the giddy, desperate highs of that album’s “(May You One Day) Carry Me Home”, the soaring chorus of lead single “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts” sure comes close, with lead vocalist Dustin Addis and bassist Shannon Burns singing in the tight harmony that typifies their best moments. It is the most reliable trick in their toolbox, and it works just as well two songs later on the raging “Skyline”, a headlong rush into new love that sounds as sloppily exuberant as the real thing.
But while Everybody Left is more about refinement than reinvention, there’s still some new territory being explored. “Take Me Down” finds Burns taking over the lead vocals which are layered demurely over what sounds to be her own gorgeous harmony coos as the track builds to an explosive chorus, begging an absent lover to “take [her] to the limit”. Meanwhile, the band has augmented their straightforward, heartland rock with little splashes of 90’s-era inspiration. It first breaks through in the phased, flange-y wah of the rhythm guitars on the title track, recalling the more shoegaze-inspired moments of alt-rockers Superdrag and Sugar, and crops back up in the draggy, alt-country-meets-Promise-Ring melancholia of “Skipping Stones” (For that matter, Addis claimed in a recent track-by-track that he was trying to channel The Promise Ring’s “Very Emergency” on the chorus of “Like A Habit”, though he seems to have accidentally cloned Third Eye Blind’s “Never Let You Go” instead). The little tweaks keep things fresh. Everybody Left retains The Forecast’s core sound but dodges the air of stagnation that crept into the band’s 2010 self-titled album.