Caitlin von Berky fronts Belltalk's talented four-piece, after she had a brief love affair with opera. Belltalk’s alternative pop stylings hit you like a boxer wearing a velvet boxing glove, elegant and soft to the touch, but it's still several dozen pounds of pressure swinging right at you.
It's tough to tidily put Belltalk into a genre hole, which is just the way I like it! Each musician is highly skilled. There are Impressive instrumental harmonies, creative bass rhythms and very varied percussion. it's almost unfair how many tones the band manages to achieve on this five-track EP entitled Lights.
"Remote Control" kicks things off with a decidedly Radiohead vibe (unsurprising, as the band is listed as one of Belltalk's influences for Lights) by having fluttering guitar sounds lead into some funky drumming and super subtle bass. Von Berky takes the helm on vocal duties, and fans of contemporary female artists will find little to criticize here. Her voice is familiar, at worst normal, and it fits the music. What I like about "Remote Control" is how, during the instrumental bridge, which is far wilder than the otherwise steady patterns the song demonstrates, only by von Berky exiting the track and letting the music build does Belltalk create the emotional tension most bands strive for.
The keyboard-led "Electric Storm" and anxious tempos of "Bright Lights" also give testimony to the band's strength. Bassist Kiel Hames is the unsung hero of most of the tracks here, rooting the tracks with his own muted energy lest they get too out of control, but his bandmates have enough reign over their instruments to prevent such a thing from happening. Also draw your attention to von Berky and Elizabeth Hurman's guitar playing. Their synergy is level with fellow dudette rocks Vivian Girls and Grass Widow. The guitar playing is often the most experimental, with harmonies breathing in the sound space and exhaling something erratic and unexpected.
Lights is hardly a light album. The music's effects, for me, weren't felt until well after a track had ended, and upon repeated listenings I found extra guitar chords that weren't there, an extra drum beat, an unearthed baseline. The music is subtle but heavy, like a large, delicious meal. Actually that's lame; let's stick with the boxer wearing a velvet boxing glove metaphor. This album is recommended.
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