members of the band Eleventh Dream Day
Eleventh Dream Day Credit: Sam Prekop

When Chicago indie-rock stalwarts Eleventh Dream Day released their 14th album (and first in five years), Since Grazed, in April 2021, the pandemic prevented them from having a proper release party. The group, formed in 1983, are creeping up on their 40th anniversary, and though they didn’t hold together this long by being impatient, they felt so strongly about getting these songs out to the world ASAP that rather than wait for their moment in the crowded release schedule of longtime label home Thrill Jockey, they put out Since Grazed with Comedy Minus One (which also released their “lost album,” New Moodio, in 2013). “My favorite records are those that feel bound by loss, but the loss is conveyed with such beauty that you find yourself uplifted by the time you flip the record over,” says vocalist and drummer Janet Bean. “This record felt like this to me. If there ever was a good time for such a thing it’s now.”

Eleventh Dream Day’s current lineup merits Chicago supergroup status, with members from Tortoise, Freakwater, the Zincs, the Coctails, Tweedy, and Archer Prewitt’s band, among others. The core members, aboard since the 80s, are Bean, vocalist and guitarist Rick Rizzo, and bassist Douglas McCombs; keyboardist, vocalist, and producer Mark Greenberg joined in 2000, and guitarist and keyboardist James Elkington has been with the band since 2012.

Since Grazed was originally a Rizzo solo album, but as he told webzine Concrete Islands, it evolved into an Eleventh Dream Day record as he began adding his bandmates as collaborators. While 2015’s Works for Tomorrow had a hard-rocking live-band feel, Since Grazed is more sparse and reflective—it sounds like a meticulous studio creation, with each musician putting careful thought and preparation into their own contribution. The album’s generous length (the vinyl version is a double LP) gives the material plenty of room to breathe and lets its emotions sink in. The sorrow of “Just Got Home (In Time to Say Goodbye)” and the longing mysticism of “Tyrian Purple” demonstrate the power of a band stretching out and taking their time. “Wish Too Far” shares the elegance of British folk rock a la Fairport Convention or Steeleye Span. The slow-building torch song “Matter,” sung by Bean, mines low-key beauty from horror, reaching an evocative peak as Rizzo’s guitar keens with a Tom Verlaine-like clarity: “There were rusted machines and old limousines / The sun cut through the surface and found a small patch of green / What’s the matter with you, did you not see the light bloom?” Fans of Eleventh Dream Day’s windy and wild live sound shouldn’t be disappointed either, despite the quieter atmosphere of the album: the playfulness of “Yves Klein Blues” and the fervor of “A Case to Carry On” play great counterpoint to each other. That said, Since Grazed isn’t so much a crowd-pleaser as it is a statement that Eleventh Dream Day are still able to surprise.

Eleventh Dream Day, Fri 9/24 and Sat 9/25, 8:30 PM, Constellation, 3111 N. Western, $25, $20 in advance (Friday’s show is sold out), 18+