So much for the sophomore slump here. Gallery, the sophomore release from Seattle’s Craft Spells, may just be even better than their first release Idle Labor this past year. While the band stays true to the dream pop sound that fastened hits like “After the Moment” and “Party Talk”, this EP brings that same style to a more polished beat and cohesiveness. On Idle Labor, the guitar at times felt as though it was leading the beat and pushing songs forward. The group has picked up a drum machine that makes all the difference. There’s a freshness, or maybe that the sound feels more alive, that I just can’t seem to shake from thinking about as I spin through the six tracks over and over again. My personal favorite song is the infectiously fun “Leave My Shadow”. Packing some serious 80’s vibes, the song features the best of Idle Labor’s uniqueness with the present sound of the group on this EP.
Stream the album below and if you like what you hear, you can pick it up at your local record store today with a pressing from Captured Tracks.
Written by Greg Dahman
Craft Spells burst onto the scene last year with the underrated Idle Labor, my own personal #10 LP of 2011. Apparently not satisfied with their initial success, the band will be releasing a new EP entitled Gallery on May 15th via Captured Tracks. The first track off the record, “Still Left With Me”, was released late last week and picks up right where their first album left off with that same great electro dream pop sound. Having had the privilege to have caught them live last year, if you see them on the lineup poster for your favorite summer festival, be sure to mark them down as a must see. Check the track list for Gallery and a stream of “Still Left With Me” below.
1. Still Left with Me
4. Leave My Shadow
5. Sun Trails
Written by Greg Dahman
I will preface my Top 10 list by saying you won’t find Bon Iver’s self-titled on it. I have nothing against you, Justin, and I do love your album. It’s just you were #11 and Rob told me I could only write about 10. No hard feelings? And without further ado, my Top 10 albums of 2011.
10. Craft Spells – Idle Labor
I feel like this album doesn’t get enough credit for how great it is. New wavish, 1980’s synth electro-dream pop in 2011? And yes, I did in fact have a seizure after I wrote that sentence. In any case, this album features not only my personal #10 song of the year in “After the Moment,” but also such gems as “Scandinavian Crush,” “Party Talk,” and the “Your Tomb.” Like a fine wine, this album gets better with age and every spin I give it.
9. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
When I first heard “How Can U Luv Me” I thought it was an interesting song and a band worth checking out more. Hard to believe the band’s initial hit may be the least interesting song (and it’s still a good song) on this fantastic self-titled debut. Armed with a guitar climbing all over the place and some scratchy mic’d vocals, their sound is one you won’t forget. Be sure to listen to “FFunny FFrends” and “Little Blue House.”
8. Hooray For Earth – True Loves
I first encountered this band listening to SiriusXM U in my car when True Loves came on. The sound of the drum sticks banging the edge and setting the beat….some echoed ahhs and then, the synth drops. My reaction, “What the fuck is this? I like this. No, I really like this.” And even better, the band wasn’t a one hit wonder. “No Love,” “Bring Us Closer Together,” “Last Minute,” and my personal favorite, “Same,” all deserve your attention.
7. The Drums – Portamento
I enjoyed The Drums first self-titled album, but I absolutely love this record. It still features a heavy dose of bass and sing-along choruses, but this one seems to venture down a darker path than its predecessor. The focus of the record is on relationships and eventually, their death. “What You Were,” my favorite track, describes the impending doom of going into a relationship you know isn’t going to work out, but yet, you try anyway. “But still I cave in. I gave you my heart. I cave in. I knew I would die.” Let the The Drums get you through the ones that really hurt.
6. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
How far has this band come? It combines that loveable beach pop from their first record Album (“Honey Bunny”) with a dash of that fuller sound on Broken Dreams Club (“Alex”), ultimately culminating with a true anthem moment on this record (“Vomit”). Taken as a whole, the band dives even deeper into the human spirit than before, resulting in a true masterpiece of sound.
5. Destroyer – Kaputt
A record in the truest sense, this requires being listened to from start to finish to truly appreciate the beauty and entirety of the emotion put into it. Dan Bejar weaves you rich, aesthetically pleasing tracks that will transfer your mind away from this world to whatever you choose to imagine. Perhaps no better song represents this full-bodied work than the 8 minute long “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker” in which you’ll begin with a gorgeous flute solo before having a blaring trumpet help you cross the finish line.
4. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation
Thankfully for us all, Trevor Powers decided to leave his bedroom and share his music with the world. My favorite aspect of this album is how his voice is recorded in lo-fi. At times it sounds so soft and fragile…almost broken, before breaking out in renewed strength and vigor. “Cannons,” “Afternoon, Seventeen,” “Daydream”…actually, just listen to the whole thing.
3. Holy Ghost! – Holy Ghost!
My favorite electronic album of the year, Holy Ghost! brings the fun on their self-titled debut. In fact, as I’m looking at my list, I seem to have enjoyed a lot of the 1980’s pop revival bands that put out records. Well, I was born in the 80’s , so I guess it fits. In either case, “Wait and See, Hold My Breath,” and my #2 song of the year, “Jam For Jerry,” highlight a fantastic debut from this NYC duo that will get your feet moving.
2. The Antlers – Burst Apart
The Antlers make you ponder the big things in life. While Hospice was a runaway emotional train wreck, this album is about musical experimentation while focusing on loneliness and death. But that truthfulness and darkness is what truly makes this band great and this album so beautiful, for they allow the listener to completely dive in and explore parts of ourselves that we don’t on a regular basis. How deep you will go, well, that’s up to you. The Antlers just provide the sound to get you there. Focus on “Parentheses, No Widows,” and personal Top 10er “I Don’t Want Love.”
1. Real Estate – Days
On first glace, this album appears to be about the 21st century American experience of the Suburbs. But at its core, this album is less about the suburbs and more about taking a nostalgic look back at beauty and simplicity in growing up there.
If it takes all summer long
Just to write one simple song
There’s too much to focus on
Clearly that is something wrong
At 26, the sentiment that “life passes you by” is beginning to hit home. My focus has gradually shifted over the years from what I was going to do all summer off school to now how I want to invest my money, how much life insurance I need, and all those other adult questions I used to avoid. Somewhere along the way, I grew up. But while we all can look fondly at the past and with anticipation for the future, don’t ever forget to live in present.
Written by Greg Dahman