“Dreamy, Joyful, Synthy”: Chicago’s Course Rise with Fresh, Spirited Debut Album ‘A Late Hour’

Course © Chloe Hamilton
Course © Chloe Hamilton
Buoyant, heartfelt, and refreshingly dynamic, Course’s debut album ‘A Late Hour’ is an immersive and enthralling experience full of brilliant synths and stirring, soaring vocals.
Stream: “Sixteen” – Course




Buoyant, heartfelt, and refreshingly dynamic, Course’s debut album is an immersive and enthralling experience full of brilliant synths and stirring, soaring vocals. A dazzling collection of tender, dreamily expressive indie pop, A Late Hour comes to life with irresistible melodies and raw emotions that burn a permanent place in our memory. Catchy and cathartic, sweet and impassioned, it’s a magnetic record that draws us in and holds our attention captive from start to finish.

A Late Hour - Course
A Late Hour – Course
I feel alive
in the super fleeting moments of the night
with his hands in my hair
tomorrow’s coming like a flood
but now I’m here
Whatever’s waiting
whatever’s gone
Don’t matter if I’m where you are
Singing, ooh…
We were sixteen
Running from something
ooh… We were sixteen
We’re all running now

Independently released May 21, 2021, A Late Hour makes for an exhilarating introduction to Chicago band Course. Consisting of lead singer Jessica Robbins, drummer Chris Dye, and synth/keys player Dan Ingenthron, along with new additions guitarist Mikey Russell and bassist Brian Weekly, Course have quickly come into their own with a radiant, shimmering indie pop sound. Reminiscent at times of Springsteen’s cinematic late ’80s crusades and Alvvays’ debut album, the band mixes bubbling guitars and colorful keyboards alongside frontwoman Jessica Robbins’ golden vocals to create songs full of charisma, conviction, and passion.

Course debuted just this past March with the single “Give It All Away,” and followed up with their second release “Sixteen” – a buoyant, nostalgic, and glistening pop song – in April. In premiering the band’s wistful and wondrous third single “Nick of Time” in early May, Atwood Magazine praised the band for “charting a path from pain to liberation and self-worth…. Beautifully blending tender music with aching emotion, Course have struck gold in ‘Nick of Time.'” A Late Hour follows closely behind, arriving alongside a set of nine short stories written by singer/guitarist Jessica Robbins – one to accompany each song on the record, and give the music that much more depth.

Course © Chloe Hamilton
Course © Chloe Hamilton

Though their story has seemingly just begun, Course have been working on their album for quite some time; this spring’s release is a well-earned culmination of hard work and dedication.

“It was indeed a long time in the making and feels even longer because of the pandemic, which somehow felt like time slowed down,” Jessica Robbins tells Atwood Magazine. “I had originally written about nine songs (three with my friend Kevin Prchal) and we decided it would be fun to record outside of Chicago and specifically with Dan Duszynki. I had wanted this record to be more synth-based and Dan’s past work was something I really loved. It had a big sound and great production — I knew it would be a good fit for the music we were working on at the time. We recorded for about five days in Dripping Spring, Texas and it was such a nice change from the then fast-paced urban lifestyle in Chicago. It felt nice to be able to not have any other demands other than just recording music in one setting— even with some scary scorpions hanging out in the house.”

“We finished most of the songs in Dripping Springs and then the plan was to either go out there again or finish in a studio in Chicago, but… then.. COVID. We were luckily able to get one studio session in around the end of February but only finished part of one song. The rest we ended up doing in our respective homes during lockdown and then were able to do a short and safe studio session last summer to finish up the record. Dan mixed everything back in Texas and we sorted out all the production along the way. When I think back on the process, it feels so disjointed but I also feel lucky to have been making music at all during a major global crisis where music felt like the least important thing at some moments.”


Disjointed though its creation may have been, A Late Hour is anything but that: The album flows with a sense of purpose, grace, and spirited charm.

“I had a strong vision going into this record that was mainly to connect with listeners with upbeat moments, a retro ’90s yet modern vibe, and to not be fully depressing (only one sad song, amazingly),” Robbins explains. “There were many open-ended parts to the songs where we could mess around with synth and drum parts to get to the heart of the tune. I feel like with this record, we have found our musical lane. This album feels fresh with a new sound which completely defines us as a band.”

In the interest of keeping things open to interpretation, the album’s name was chosen to be vague, yet meaningful all at once. A Late Hour conjures up images of the dead of night; of burning the midnight oil, of walking through quiet city and suburban streets, with only one’s thoughts for company.

“Album titles are impossible – it’s like a band name, just so hard to come up with something that fits an entire entity. I ended up choosing “A Late Hour” because it is a line from one of the short stories I wrote that will accompany the album. I like the unrestrained and ambiguous nature of the line which can be interpreted in so many different ways.”

I want people to fall into the music, feel like it drives all the senses, and be what the listener wants it to be.

Course © Chloe Hamilton
Course © Chloe Hamilton

The band’s journey begins with the gorgeous, soothing opener “Give It All Away” – a seductive, synth-laced tune full of vibrant sonics and compelling feeling. “Come on and get down,” Robbins sings, inviting us into her world. “Get down to what I say.” It’s such a simple evocation, and yet it makes for a perfectly entrancing entrance. It’s also an early favorite for the band:

“I love ‘Give it All Away,'” Robbins exclaims. “I have played that song so many times in 100 different ways that it always surprises me how it can change so drastically from one version to the next. And I’m so happy with how it turned out on the album. I feel like Dan took my idea and ran with it in a way that was exactly how I had pictured it always sounding.”


“Give It Away” is just the tip of an exciting sonic iceberg that melts over the ears and pours itself into our hearts. Second track “Sixteen” is a beautifully sweet coming-of-age reverie brimming with nostalgia, intimacy, and connection. Anthemic and enchanting, it’s another early high point on an album that beckons listeners to smile as we sink into its embrace.

Inspiring melodies and effervescent sonics are second nature for Course. Softer songs like “Crazy Love,” “Nick of Time,” and “Darkest Tower” pair perfectly alongside the more upbeat, driving tunes like “The Flame” – and through it all, the Chicago band remain an uplifting force. The album’s final tracks are as captivating as its opening ones: Between the urgent pulse and hushed tones of “Lights Low,” the utterly magnetic, evocative harmonies of the soul-stirring “Henry,” and the smoldering glow of closer “The Lake,” A Late Hour ends on an indisputable high.

As a lyrically-minded songwriter, Robbins cites a number of special lines that stick out to her. “I have a lot of favorite lyrics on this record, but the song with my absolute favorite lyrics are from “Lights Low.” The first verse of the songs is:

“Whispers in the background,
your house on the hill, day turns into night
planting nickels under your porch,
watching the stars turn over in the sky”

“I had rewatched “Stand By Me” a couple years ago, and this song is inspired in part by that movie. The song goes through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood and is essentially about finding yourself at any age and that it’s ok if you haven’t yet, because you will. It’s the mixture of innocence and exploration that occurs in many capacities throughout the scope of our life: whether you are a child creating your own adventures in your backyard or an adult having a child for the first time. We are always beginners in some way and there is work to be done to know and understand ourselves in a way we feel good about. The line “Nickels Under Your Porch” will also be the title to the short story collection.”


There is no disputing the thought and energy that went into making A Late Hour, just as there is no denying Course’s mellifluous radiance. Robbins couldn’t be prouder of the band’s work; at this time, she’s just ready for people to hear and feel this music.”

“I ultimately hope listeners feel good when hearing this album,” she says. “I wanted some levity with the songs and for it to not be ultra heady or sad (with the exception of “Henry”). I want the listeners to feel joy and want to hear more at the end. As for my own personal feelings of creating this record, I am proud we were able to get it done given all the obstacles over the past two years. I experienced the most satisfying feeling of creating music in a time where the world feels completely different.”

Course © Chloe Hamilton
Course © Chloe Hamilton

Course have set themselves apart as an intimately expressive alternative band brimming with irresistibly catchy tunes, cathartic emotions, and utterly stunning energy.

Their debut is a special beginning to an artistry we can’t wait to hear more from in the years to come, and we’ll surely be listening to their first LP on repeat for months to come. Listen to the full record via our below stream, and peek inside Course’s A Late Hour with Atwood Magazine as the band goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their debut album!

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:: stream/purchase A Late Hour here ::

 

Stream: ‘A Late Hour’ – Course



:: Inside A Late Hour ::

A Late Hour - Course

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Give it All Away

As a songwriter, I wanted to challenge myself to write a song with two chords and focus on vibe and energy— which is a departure from my writing in the past where I really worked on craft and lyrics. This time- I just wanted to free write, free associate, both musically and lyrically. This freedom helped me relax into what became a theme of the album and I think this song is a great representation of that.

Sixteen

This song was one of the last songs we worked on before heading to Texas, and really put it together fully in the studio- which was fun! It was very organic and everyone got the vibe and ran with it.

Crazy Love

We recorded this song 100% in lockdown in each of our respective homes. I wasn’t sure this song would go on the record because we didn’t get to it in Texas but I love how it turned out and that we have a piece of music made completely in isolation.

Nick of Time

This song feels the most like singer/songwriter tunes like ones I have written in the past but I love all the added synth and instrumentation that fills out the sound. This song + short story is a very personal and meaningful song to me.

Darkest Tower

I would say that this song set the tone for the album. When I wrote this song I imagined our record going in this direction and we have played it a ton of different ways live- I feel like it’s the most fluid and open of all the songs.

The Flame

This song is the other collaboration with Kevin Prchal and I love the build and progression of the tune. We changed some parts over the course of a year and it feels like it’s in the right space now. This song was based on a flash fiction piece I wrote about a town on fire.

Lights Low

This song makes me smile every time I hear it. The synths and wild production yet acoustic guitars felt like the right choice and made the big sound we were going for.

Henry

I wrote this song about a teenager I knew who died in a train accident. It was difficult to record because it was so emotional for me. I wrote it from the perspective of a mother losing her child but how grief manifests in someone. We ended up changing the drums in this song and having a more minimal sound at the beginning which seemed to work best overall. I’m really happy how this one turned out.

The Lake

We recorded this in Texas but over the course of the year the band and I felt we needed to completely revamp it. So we went back into the studio right before the pandemic hit and got the basic tracks down— the rest we did in lockdown and over the course of the next six months. It was the very last track to be completed.

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:: stream/purchase A Late Hour here ::

— — — —

A Late Hour - Course

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📸 © Chloe Hamilton

:: Stream Course ::



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