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"We love melodies and lyrics," says Derek Ingersoll, lead singer of Chicago-based Absentstar. "We're not that interested in gimmicks." Well, they do have one gimmick: Their debut album, Sea Trials, doesn't sound anything like a debut album. This is an uncommonly assured longplayer steeped in the fine art of pop-rock songwriting.

The band's roots extend back to 1999, when Ingersoll, guitarist Andy Dixon and drummer Heath Hamilton moved from their native Indiana to Chicago, where the three figured they stood a better chance of finding an audience... more