Saturday, October 1, 2011

Album Review: Craft Spells - Idle Labor

A friend of mine was recently explaining to me his theory on how music chronologically repeats itself in twenty year cycles. For example, in the 90's, we began to see a return to 70's punk influences in the form of grunge. With the beginning of a new decade, we are starting to see a reoccurrence of artists influenced by dream pop music of the late 80's. Just last year, we saw the twentieth anniversaries of The Cure's masterpiece Disintegration, as well as Cocteau Twin's Heaven or Las Vegas. Influences from both of these groups, along with many others from that era, are very evident throughout Craft Spell's debut album, Idle Labor. Like many bands signed to Brooklyn's Captured Tracks label, Craft Spells replicates a nostalgic and hazy rendition of 80's pop music (often slapped with one of the most horrid genre tags in recent memory, "chillwave"), while still managing to keep the music sounding somewhat fresh and authentic. Idle Labor is a well crafted pop album, that avoids beating the long dead horse of an overused, present-day dreamy brand of shoegaze.

Similar to their peers (Wild Nothing, Minks, etc.), Craft Spells has a large nostalgia factor to it that makes it very accessible to any fan of the genre, whether it be bands twenty years prior to it's release, or modern day "chillwave" bands. The disgustingly infectious second track on the album, "Scandinavian Crush", exhibits this property perfectly. The track has an overwhelmingly catchy dance beat buried beneath cloudy and jangly Johnny Marr guitar chords, with lyrics dealing with the happier aspects of falling in love that would definitely not seem out of place on The Head On The Door. The lyrical aspect of the album is certainly one of the albums strongest points, which I find evident on my personal favorite track from the album, "Your Tomb". As far as atmosphere goes, the song does not represent the rest of the record at all, with songwriting that compares a breakup to bringing a significant other into their resting place. Lyrics such as "I'll throw a rose / to celebrate your end / but when you rise from the dead I'll love you again" depict a scenario that many actively dating males can relate to. Love and social dormance are recurring themes throughout the lyrics, which is to be expected. But to be realistic, amidst all of Idle Labor's influences, Craft Spells is in essence, nothing new at all; and due to the recent emergence of "chillwave", is basically outdated twice-fold. Which I mean in the absolute best way possible, as Idle Labor in no way sounds like a dead genre begining to disintegrate (pun intended), like so many modern bands make it feel. The penultimate track, "You Should Close The Door", sublimely flaunts Craft Spell's ability to keep The Cure's synthesizers, Johnny Marr's guitars, and generic chord progressions catchy and refreshing. Despite being weighed down by some of the more sub-par and redundant tracks on the album such as "The Fog Rose High" and "Party Talk" (which happens to be the lead single), Craft Spells created a fresh and promising debut that shows us that its genre is far from mortality.

01 - For the Ages
02 - Scandinavian Crush
03 - The Fog Rose High
04 - Party Talk
05 - From the Morning Heat
06 - After the Moment
07 - Ramona
08 - Given the Time
09 - Your Tomb
10 - You Should Close the Door
11 - Beauty Above All

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