Chicago’s music scene is rich, colorful, and full of variety—even during the pandemic—but in recent years I haven’t noticed much of what I call “weird pop,” exemplified in decades past by strangely hooky local acts such as the Children’s Hour, the Aluminum Group, and Bobby Conn. I guess we just needed some fresh blood—for example, Lyn Vaus, a seasoned musician who moved to Chicago in 2016. Vaus grew up in Los Angeles, Iran, and Boston, where he had a noisy postpunk band called Carnal Garage. After “State of Shock,” a song from the group’s lone cassette album, landed on the soundtrack for the 1992 movie The Lawnmower Man, Vaus started working in the film industry. But he retained his Boston music connections and split his time between there and LA while recording his 2010 project, The Floating Celebration. In a 2011 interview with It’s Psychedelic Baby, Vaus described his vision as “a late night coming down or Sunday morning record, with a somewhat jazzy-psychedelic-chamber-folk-vibe,” and name-checked influences from psychedelia and tropicalia such as Love, the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, and Os Mutantes.
These heady influences also appear on The Ghost Host Vol. 1, the new album from Vaus’s trio Reality Anonymous, formed in 2018. They recorded the album at Chicago studio Mystery Street, which bills itself as the city’s only solar-powered recording facility. The lead single, “I Love Her Everywhere,” recalls innocent minor-key 60s garage bands such as the Rising Storm and Lazy Smoke, alongside 80s San Francisco Paisley Underground bands the Three O’Clock and the Rain Parade (the latter of which Vaus has called a personal favorite). Reality Anonymous adorn the mournful opening track, “Penny,” with some great fuzz- and vibrato-soaked guitars, and on the epic organ dirge “New Fire” I hear a heavy Jim Morrison influence (or maybe a bit of Phantom’s Divine Comedy, an early-70s band that folks who suspected Morrison had faked his death thought might actually be the Doors). Vaus’s postpunk roots show on the subliminally catchy “Fry Guy” and “Out of Nowhere,” which recall the second Television album, literate Aussie new-pop geniuses the Go-Betweens, and arty UK janglers such as Felt and the Chameleons. The 16-track album concludes with the darkly dreamy “The Rest in Peace,” whose loner private-press vibe reminds me of rarities such as Damon’s late-60s psych-folk masterpiece Song of a Gypsy. Together, these deep songs look to the past and future, and ought to help Chicago become a weird-pop haven once again. v