Chicago indie rocker Jeff Kelley digs into experimental pop with Ocean Cult | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Chicago indie rocker Jeff Kelley digs into experimental pop with Ocean Cult


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Over the past decade, it’s often felt like everyone in Chicago’s underground-rock subscenes was legally required to have multiple projects, and Jeff Kelley certainly cleared that bar. He fronted frazzled art-rock group Vaya, mathy indie-pop outfit Dick Wolf!, and ragged new-wave band New Drugs. When he wasn’t making music, Kelley helped document the scene as cofounder and creative director of Chicago Singles Club, a hybrid music-journalism outlet and record label whose activity sadly tapered off in the late 2010s (the site stopped posting monthly artist profiles in 2016, but continued to host events for about another year). These days Kelley focuses on his solo project, Ocean Cult, which builds on the complicated mathletics of Dick Wolf! and the peculiar, irascible angles of Talking Heads. On Ocean Cult’s new debut album, Elastic Era, Kelley stretches out as a singer and songwriter, reaching past his old prickly ruggedness to embrace a heartfelt flamboyance. On “Touch Me, Electricity” he delivers the hook atop a patchwork of zigzagging synths, his voice swooping down from its highest register into a sensual croon——and his confidence makes the song glow.   v

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