Sometimes, there are local bands that you haven't yet heard, but you become aware of through some measure of buzz. “Have you heard the So-And-Sos, yet?” your friends will ask. You see a Twitter post about how the So-And-Sos crushed their Homegrown set. The plaudits slowly pile up, and you realize you gotta hear the So-And-Sos.
For this writer, The Latelys is one of those bands. Over the past few years, their name has come up quite a bit in the “Who's good?” conversation. That's the place that a chat with any local scenester inevitably goes, after you've already covered complaining about politics, talking about local restaurant openings, and gossiping about who's a total creep. But the goal is always the same: to learn that younger musicians are still capable of bringing it, whatever that “it” is.
The Latelys, they've got it. They've got it like crazy.
Their debut album (after an introductory EP a few years ago) is called “Waiting for You,” and it's an astounding collection of playful, catchy, dramatic, emotional music that reveals a band with amazing, creative chemistry and a singer who is perhaps one of the most technically-gifted the Twin Ports has seen.
Yeah, Jenna Harting is an amazing vocalist. No hyperbole. This is one of the things the grapevine was saying a few years ago. Thing is, the grapevine was understating it. Truly, Harting is a marvel with a set of golden pipes that could easily lead her to serious success on a level that most regional musicians don't achieve. It's not difficult to imagine, listening to “Waiting for You.”
The Latelys' debut album really is that good — it makes music writers imagine what kind of form their eventual success will take. Will they be a regional staple? Will they tour and become beloved semi-underground popsters? Will they have a hit song in a big movie? Will Jimmy Fallon soon be fawning over them on “The Tonight Show”? Of course, maybe the band will implode in a year, too, but here's hoping they don't meet that end — the End of Unmet Potential. That's the saddest end there is, for a band.
“Waiting for You” opens on the loping “Another Saturday,” which is pleasant enough. But then the band does a live skip-glitch trick that makes a syllable repeat, and you realize that The Latelys are clever arrangers, just like that. And then Harting drops a killer disco chorus (led by drummer and secret weapon Rachel Riefenberg) and a harmonized bridge that shows off her world-class pipes, and it's immediately evident that this band has serious potential. As if that wasn't enough, then there's a sudden electric-piano solo by CJ Hanson that comes out of nowhere, like Stevie Wonder just burst into the studio and sat down at the keys mid-take. Say what?
The funny thing is: the album just gets better and better. Song after song is stuffed with smart composing and great playing from all three members. It's tough to even think of a band they sound like. Are they Ben Folds Five, but with a killer R&B singer? Are they a Lake Street Dive sort of act, only rawer and artier and just cooler? Whatever the case, “Waiting for You” is beyond impressive, and it's tough to think of a vocalist in a local band with more technical ability and genuine soulfulness than Jenna Harting — and we're talking about the all-timers list, here.
The rumor mill, it turns out, was right — The Latelys are the real thing, and their first full-length album is proof. “Waiting for You” is one of the best albums of the year, and is — no fooling — one of the most impressive ever made by a regional act.
Artist: The Latelys
Album: "Waiting for You"
Personnel: Jenna Harting (vocals, bass), CJ Hanson (keyboards, vocals), Rachel Riefenberg (drums)
Upcoming show: 8 p.m. Friday with Emily Haavik and the Cuckoo Bees at Rex Bar, 600 E. Superior St.
Online: Music will be available for digital download and streaming on Friday, Oct. 18.