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Cymbals Eat Guitars are not ones to typically settle for the standard. They're often caught in a quest to become part of a dichotomy of originality amongst the indie rock scene. Their blend of showgaze with indie elements has always made them a strong force.
Their last record was 2014's LOSE, a critically acclaimed record for the band. Often hailed as one of their best, it came with hardships. Those challenges served as an inspiration for their new record, Pretty Years. Vocalist and guitarist Joseph D'Agostino explained: "In a dark moment on tour for LOSE, I said something to [bassist Matt Whipple] about losing my pretty years quickly because of touring, how the lifestyle ages you." He continued, "Months later when we were writing for the record, he came to me with the lyrics for that chorus and I wrote the song around them." These sentiments of a hard time on the road are what gave birth to the track '4th Of July, Philadelphia (Sandy)'.
Pretty Years is very much an of-this-moment record. It seems to capture the present in order to let go of the demons of the past. Closure track 'Shrine' is the climax to message, where D'Agostino chants of running away from the pressures of reality in order to come to terms with his past. The sentiment of this album being a very present-oriented one also became clear in the studio; discussing the recording of the album, D'Agostino claimed, "With this record... I think we nailed it this time. First or second takes of everything, real hunger in the performances. Just something to prove," the nature of the record becoming clear from the start, not just by meaning but spiritually for the band.
It's unique qualities become most clear in the track 'Wish', which is dominated by screeching saxophones, harmonizing in the most tortured of ways, seemingly not by intention. The powerful build leads to a squeaky ending but it's hard to escape the demanding brass that carries the track through. 'Dancing Days' also provides something new, and sitting at the center of the album, definitely becomes its core. It gets off with a slow start with splashy keys before exploding in the chorus with massive drum fills delivered by Andy Dole. The song is a cumulation of excellence from the band, as the song bursts into its emotional conclusion with D'Agostino yelling "Goodbye to my pretty years."
As personal as it sounds, it does leave something to desire after the end. Previous efforts from the band felt fulfilled. This album seems to go through moments of shine but at the end, it's only isolated moments you can remember that bring the album together. While explosive and definitely a jam, for example, the punk rock attitude of 'Beam' feels like less of a part of the record as it does a filler to provide some energy mid-way in. It's especially at the ending of the record before it's conclusion that the album seems to lose momentum, and that starts with 'Beam'. 'Mallwalking' is a slow mover, almost dramatic. It has a cool guitar going on in it but it's meaning seems lost in that disposition. It's a bit awkward coming out of 'Beam', but the lyrics seem to at least attempt to bring it back into the course of the record. 'Well' is also a good track, but feels simply out of place. Outside of the album's meaning, it's still one of the standout tracks with a poppy start that makes way for a big ending and fantastic buildup.
Cymbals Eat Guitars' approach to Pretty Years was spontaneous, and more of a release of emotions than a busywork record. It's personal for the band, for sure, and that comes off in a lot of tracks. It seems to lose sight of that at times, though, and becomes nothing more than a throwing out of emotions in an aimless fashion. It may not be as cohesive as other records, but it feels like the album the band needed.
Favorite Tracks: Dancing Days, Wish, Well
Least Favorite Track: Beam
I went into this album completely unaware of what to expect. I had heard “Doing The Right Thing” the day before picking it up, and I was simply entranced. Daughter’s sophomore album, Not To Disappear is nothing short of entrancing. The album is beautifully atmospheric with a hint of urgency, constantly grabbing your attention at every lovely moment.
As soon as the album begins with the song “New Ways”, the slow and heavy feeling of floating in a purple space invades you. The song builds up from a atmospheric pop song into a slow driven, enchanting ballad filled with layered synths and wailing background noise. “Numbers” follows up, with a minimalist beginning featuring nothing a single, reverberating beat and vocals, before building into an huge, stadium filling indie rock monster. This album is full of eccentric buildups from nothing into a massive wall of noise that garners every sense into one huge sonic experience. Vocalist Elena Tonra commands the attention of the listener, even in the disarray of the entrancing and complex masterpieces this album has to offer, showing off her vocal and songwriting abilities especially in “Alone / With You” and “Mother”. The album isn’t all slow-paced buildups, though. Tracks like “How” and “No Care” are exciting and energetic right from the get-go and carry on as such, giving the album a burst of energy when it begins to drag. “No Care” has a particularly fun section, with guitarist Igor Haefeli bringing out an infectious riff accompanying the driving kick drum, sounding like a Now, Now track. The song also features a great performance by drummer Remi Aguilella, who also shined on the taiko drumming on “Numbers”. Tonra take bass duty on the album, and takes control on “To Belong”, on top of her enchanting vocals. The nearly seven minute epic, “Fossa” begins enchantingly with a Purity Ring reminiscent introduction and evolves into a true indie folk jam, complete with a classic kick-snare pattern and short and sweet guitar licks. “Made Of Stone” closes the album, on a final atmospheric note that sucks you deep into the space you began sinking into at the beginning of the album, as if to provide one last moment of clarity before drifting infinitely into the great unknown.
Daughter has provided an album that has set a precedent for all indie, folk, and pop artists to follow this year, barely two weeks into 2016. The album has a huge presence while maintaining a minimalist attitude in its approach. This group has a huge year ahead of them. This blend of Imagine Dragons’ apocalypse pop and Now, Now’s indie flair came together in the most brilliant of ways. Don’t miss out on this album!