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Retina Sky is a Midwest emo band based in Chicago that is not afraid to experiment with its sound. They primarily stick to dreamy emo traditionalism, but occasionally, they break away from these sonic barriers and deep dive into elements of shoegaze and top 40 alt radio. This creative energy transpires into their newest ep, ‘Without Hope We Wither, which is sure to satisfy your ears for its approximate 20-minute duration.

The introductory track, “Until You Fall Asleep,” is a perfect greeting for the world the band’s music lives in. Everything within this ep has at least one otherworldly element to it, whether that be a vocal melody or guitar tone. This song features both, gliding through everything effortlessly. Great records can hook listeners within 6 seconds or less, and Retina Sky accomplished this goal by starting the ep with “Until You Fall Asleep”. They have a knack for catchy, intriguing choruses; “Until You Fall Asleep” essentially encapsulates everything they are good at as a unit.

Next, “Transmission” features a standout guitar performance. Midwest emo, especially stemming from the Chicago area, tends to provide unforgettable, twinkly guitar riffs. This song pairs a strong lead guitar with extraordinarily poetic lyricism, insinuating that the group deserves a spot in their local scene and beyond. If they continue utilizing elements like strong vocal stacking and a classic Midwest emo bridge breakdown, they could even deviate away from the local scene, invigorating audiences everywhere with their intriguing sonic choices.

Similarly to “Transmission,” the song “Running Out of Time” starts very strongly, with a long, yet necessary introduction. Retina Sky stands out among other Chicagoan dreamy emo groups with their lead vocal stylings. It is not so much that other artists continually mimic each other, but rather, stylistic branding evolves. Artists like Retina Sky, who create their own tones and emotional range, are what shape genres, keeping them afloat despite changes. This song feels a bit more shoegaze-y than the others, which would be a fascinating avenue for the group to explore further, especially if they pursue a full-length LP. Their ear for different tones and intentional selection of what goes where would help them greatly in this case. A stacked pedalboard does not make a great shoegaze band, and it seems Retina Sky is well aware of this, using their joint skills and talents to create great songs instead.

Finally, “Dutchland” is an awesome closer; by this point, listeners have explored the EP’s storyline thoroughly, engaging with all the moving parts and familiarizing themselves with who Retina Sky is as a band. The EP’s exit point features an exceptionally tight instrumental and Retina Sky’s signature catchy chorus. Their vocal melody choices are interesting; sometimes they deviate away from the path most traveled, which can often separate a band from its competition. This song is a standout single and among my favorite of the entire body of work.

This band has the potential to sweep through the up-and-coming Chicago scene effortlessly, should they continue with their solid work ethic. They enjoy what they are making, which makes or breaks a band at this stage of their career. Eventually, Retina Sky will grace every local bill worth seeing—and then, world tours will ensue.

Listen to the album by clicking HERE.