City States
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City States

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Chicago, Illinois, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Alternative Art Rock


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Album Review: City States – Geography"

"So abruptly straightforward that it’s strongest asset is the unflinching directness, both lyrically and musically." - Ravedeaf

"Album Review: City States – Geography"


"The album as a whole is simple, clean cut and is evocative of a fresh and modern pop sound, yet delivered with the same sincerity of old and that is what ultimately makes it such an intimate and personally engaging album." - Don't Look Down

"Feature Interview: City States"

Chicago based art-pop band City States are inevitably on the rise. Their blend of piano driven balladry with sweeping vocals draws comparisons from The Antlers to Majical Cloudz, and their music constantly remains upfront and intimate. “Uncharted Waters”, a highlight off their upcoming debut entitled Geography, stacks piano chords over bare bones vocals that feel indebted to some 40 years of electronic tinged pop music. Much of the album plays off the same central musical idea, and fully shapes their melancholic and melodic sound. - Ravedeaf

"Album Review: City States – Geography"


Its been a long time coming for Joel Ebner, aka City States. After nearly six years of false starts, mutations and detours, and at the (relatively) ripe old age of 34, he’s finally completed his debut album, Geography.

He’s had some pushes on the way, notably keyboardist / producer Steve Lund and drummer Mike Burmeister, even John McEntire of Tortoise / Sea & Cake, who mixed the record, but maybe it was something closer to home, the sudden death of his father that ultimately inspired Ebner to get over his perfectionism or fear of failure, or whatever it was that stalled previous efforts.

The feelings that Ebner was left with following his loss form most of the lyrical content in the record; feelings of loss and grief and sadness fill the record, none more so than in ‘To Remember’, inspired by the eulogy that Ebner gave at his father’s memorial service, detailing the relationship they had via the Fender Jaguar his dad bought in the early 1960s.

As with many of the other tracks on the album, there’s this feeling of ordered electronica about the track, somewhere between Eno and Stereolab musically, but more poppy, more accessible than that. It’s certainly skillfully cut up and layered, and given the appropriate amount of atmospherics.

As if to justify it, or contextualise it, it’s followed by a little codetta, musically hinting at the church organ playing the hymns at that final goodbye. Its titled (For Dad).

Elsewhere on the album, there’s more immediate, in your face pieces, like the bounding almost indie rock / electronica of Endless Sunlight, the heart-stopping bubbling electro of the opener False Start, and the cool bright brilliance of There Was a time all stand out.

Perhaps best of all is the stunning rippling electro of Uncharted Waters, shards of piano interrupting this electronic hue as Ebner reaches one of the emotional high points of the record.

Geography is a deeply personal record, by an artist that’s struggled to express himself fully before. Even on this record, Ebner occasionally sounds, and feels self-conscious. That he’s got his message out, all wrapped up in listenable pop and electronica in equal measures is a testament to the man.

I’ve an idea that someones looking down with a smile on their face. - Backseat Mafia

"Au Revoir Simone and City States Brighten Up Lincoln Hall"

Joining [Au Revoir Simone] will be local Chicago band City States, a self-described art-pop band consisting of Steve Lund and Joel Ebner. Their musical repertoire jumps from minimalistic and beautifully eerie like "It's Nothing" to the more pop centered "Evened Out". It's easy to hear the influence of the Brian Eno-era Talking Heads along with a modern note of Radiohead in all of their songs. However, as much as their influences play on their sound, City States creates a mood all their own. Their 5-track EP Resolution captures the band at their best.

This perfect pairing of electronically centered bands will be performing a 21+ show at Lincoln Hall, Monday the 28th. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door. - Gapers Block

"Pick Your Poison: Monday 10-21-13"

Exactly one week from tonight, I hope if you’re in Chicago that you’ll join me at Lincoln Hall for what’s set to be a great double bill that’s worth your time and money. The two bands performing are City States and Au Revoir Simone. If you’ve never heard of either of them, let me provide you with a quick primer. City States are a fascinating Chicago band who describe their sound as art-pop, which feels like a really apt descriptor when you listen to their songs. Starting from a synth base but not content to let that be the only weapon in their arsenal, their songs consistently evolve to make unexpected and experimental turns that keep you on your toes and fully engaged. They strive to achieve a similar level of off-kilter brilliance as heroes like Brian Eno, Radiohead and Talking Heads. Their debut EP Resolution showed a lot of promise in that regard, and you can download the whole thing for free over at Bandcamp. They’re currently finishing up recording and mixing their debut album with John McEntire of Tortoise/The Sea and Cake fame. Expect to hear a lot of new material as they play Lincoln Hall for the first time ever. With any luck, by this time next year they’ll be performing at even larger venues on a national scale.

But headlining the night is the nationally touring, decidedly not-French-but-Brooklyn-based band Au Revoir Simone. Where did the all female trio come up with their name? Why it’s a quote from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, of course. These are girls after my own heart, especially after the recent release of the music video for their song “Crazy”, which re-enacts the plot to the often overlooked 1985 Martin Scorsese film After Hours. In terms of sound, Au Revoir Simone skirt the line between synth pop and dream pop. So while they don’t use guitars or even have a live drummer, they love their keyboards and vocal harmonies, which often leads to either fun and catchy songs or otherwordly psychedelic ones. Their new album Move In Spectrums is definitely one of their best to date, and owes quite a bit to Stereolab. Have a listen to their song “Somebody Who” to get a pretty good idea of where they’re at sonically these days. All that said, these two bands are playing a 21+ show at Lincoln Hall next Monday, October 28th. Tickets are $15 in advance, and can be purchased via this link.

Come on out to the show. It promises to be a great time. Speaking of which, let’s get to the great time that is your Monday edition of Pick Your Poison. Don’t miss tracks from Drop Electric, Englishman, Floating Compass, Maya Vic, New Regulars and Tape Deck Mountain. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream tracks from Baio (of Vampire Weekend), Deep Sea Arcade, Kelela, Sufjan Stevens and Rustie remixing Pusha-T’s latest. - Faronheit Blog


Still working on that hot first release.



It's not all that common for a musician to release his first full-length record at the age of 34, but that's exactly what Joel Ebner is doing. After nearly six years of false starts, mutations, and detours as City States, he's finally completed his debut LP, Geography. Maybe it's the perfectionism that took him so long. Or the fear of failure. Maybe he's a late bloomer. What's clear is that Ebner, along with the help of keyboardist / producer Steve Lund and drummer Mike Burmeister, has taken the time to create a capital-A Album: a meticulously-crafted record filled with nuance, surprise, and stylistic range.

City States began in Chicago circa 2008, initially started with a desire to branch out from the "four musicians in a room" aesthetic of Ebner's earlier band experiences, gravitating instead toward more studio-savvy projects like The Notwist and Death Cab For Cutie. Since then, he's followed through on that notion via the 2011 EP, Resolution, as well as several singles and cover songs, all the while opening shows for the likes of Doldrums and Au Revoir Simone.

Geography, which was mixed by John McEntire of Tortoise, is an album about change: it's an album about the desire to understand the contours of the world, and knowing how to respond when landscapes shift unexpectedly; roughly halfway through the making of the LP, Ebner's father died suddenly of a heart attack, and as a result most of the lyrics deal with notions of death, grief, and the struggle to find acceptance when losing someone close to you. Specifically, "To Remember" is inspired by the eulogy that Ebner gave at his father's memorial service, detailing the relationship they had via the Fender Jaguar his dad bought in the early 1960s. 

Musically, the album leans heavily on classic art-rock albums of the last 35 years: with it's droning organs, ebowed guitars, and melodic synth arpeggios, Geography's arrangements bring to mind the likes of Stereolab, Brian Eno's Another Green World, and Remain In Light-era Talking Heads.

Band Members