Album Review: Kids These Days – Hard Times EP

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Chicago-based group Kids These Days ooze blues, soul, and hip-hop swagger, their steamy jazz lines and sultry male/female vocals and raps fooling one to think they’re a group with several years of touring and performing under their belts. Surprisingly, KTD are a relatively new eight-piece of barely-out-of-their-teens students. Hailing from the University of Illinois-Chicago and DePaul University’s music schools, KTD have caused a decent number of heads to turn, most notably at this year’s SXSW. Their debut EP, Hard Times, presents sharp lyrics, swinging urban blues and jazz rhythms, and street-smart hip-hop, packing enough power in an EP to make other fledgling artists envious.

The five-track EP opens with the bluesy “Darling”, as lead vocalist Liam Cunningham and rapper Vic Mensa trade verses that are charmingly stitched together with Marcie Stewart’s jazzy echoes. These youngins make clear nods to the best of jazz, hip-hop, and soul roots with influences from Sly Stone, Common, and Charlie Parker. Title track “Hard Times” coasts through its 6:20 play time, the horn and vocal trade-offs gradually growing into a deep blues-infused lament on city living. Mensa delivers some gems with his original rhymes that capture Chicago’s complicated persona extremely well (“I’ve known guys who’ve dug dirt to live lives of comfort/ And it hurts when kids die of guns’ bursts”). “My Days” and “Summerscent” continue to offer strong examples of KTD’s capabilities, mixing classic jazz mentality with current city life sounds. The instrumental backing KTD flaunts is not just filler. These kids know what they’re doing and do it well. Closer “Walking Down the Line” finishes the EP off with Stewart’s simmering take on lovers parting ways.

Kids These Days should be a name on your radar. To get an idea of their raw talent and energy, take a glance at their YouTube channel for charged live sets and sweltering stage presence. Hard Times will be available on iTunes June 28th, but here’s hoping a longer effort isn’t too far down the road.

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