Critical praise is important, but sometimes bands need to read between the glowing reviews.
Take, for instance, Chicago-based indie rock act The M's, who earlier this year released their sophomore album Future Women to journalistic praise. Critics pretty much agreed the band succeeded in weaving familiar sounds and influences into a modern release worthy of attention in 2006.
You can't help but feel the compliment also includes a sense of backhanded commentary. As in, "The album isn't so much groundbreaking as it is rehashed. But, hey, good job!" M's singer/guitarist Josh Chicoine isn't quite sure how to respond.
"It's not necessarily something we didn't want, it's just something we didn't necessarily go after," says Chicoine, calling from Chicago. "Then again, we didn't go after much of anything."
Future Women represents many things to The M's, not the least of which is a feeling of accomplishment and pride regarding what is their first full-length album. Sort of. The quartet did release a self-titled debut in 2004, but that mixed-bag project was a collection of EPs packaged as an album. This time, they had plenty of studio hours to create a cohesive disc from start to finish.
More importantly, The M's worked diligently in the studio, crafting more anthemic and less psychedelic tunes within a creative atmosphere devoid of the pressures often associated with sophomore releases. The result is a sonic trip through guitar rock that includes layers of string sections, horn arrangements and alluring harmonies.
"We weren't going to live and die by this record," Chicoine says. "We wanted to make a good record that was really fun for us to do, and really sort of put our best foot forward at this point. This was going to be our full-length, so let's treat it like that. And I think we really pulled it off."
So far, Future Women has earned The M's some ink in national music mags, and even the definitive sign of acceptance in 2006: play on "The OC." Their "Plan of the Man" was played during an episode last month.
"The bottom line is, we're slowly making our way and sort of peeking out from just being a Chicago band," Chicoine says. "("The OC') gives us a bump. We'll see if it struck any chords, or gets more people to our shows."
Band members did notice a huge spike in visitors to their myspace.com/thems Web site, but they're anxious to see how that translates in the real world of ticket- and CD-buying.
After opening for Archer Prewitt in Denver this past February, in perhaps a more acoustic-sounding bill than would normally attract M's fans, Chicoine and company are ready for their return date.
"We're kind of looking forward to getting back there and seeing if anybody picked up the record, or if all these things we're talking about make any difference," Chicoine says. "That shows us more about where we are and how this record is doing, and, therefore, how we're doing, than just like 30 seconds on "The OC' does."
The M's, with The Deathray Davies and Quadramess
hi-dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver
Tuesday, April 25, 9 p.m.
Tickets: $8 at the door; visit hi-dive.com for more information.