On their eponymous debut, Chicago's Blue Shade Witness draws heavily on the wide open melodies and guitar-based dynamics of Brit-pop and the U.K. bands that followed it. It's a pretty painstaking facsimile, actually -- Joel Bennett's voice soars and breaks with startlingly proper amounts of melancholia and detachment, and the quartet's guitars rattle and surge meaningfully. "Stars Will Shine" is the obvious standout here: "In time I know that we'll be free/We'll kiss the sun with golden wings/And the stars will shine on me" -- it's hard not to picture thousands of Coldplay fans singing along with that bit of soft-focus abandon at the Carling Weekend. Of course, this is Blue Shade Witness in Chicago, not Chris Martin and co. at Reading. But the replication is so spot-on, it's hard not to like the latest model if you already loved the old one. "Way It's Meant to Be" is more of the same, alternating between the usual chugging chorus hook and a quiet, layered verse, while "Ever-Passing Moment" switches up the model by channeling straightforward modern rock (think Fuel). Ultimately, originality is a scarcity in the Blue Shade Witness playbook. But the quartet does borrow wisely, and it plays its cards well.
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus