Psychedelic pop will never die. Some of us like to have something to sing and hum along to, with memorable lyrics and harmonies, but don't want to subject ourselves to Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus pop machinations, at least not all the time. Straight pop music is full of formulae, with 50 years of marketing research, creating a lean, mean endorphin machine, pressing your endocrine buttons in all the right ways.
This eliminates the possibility of surprise, of the new and unexpected. That even if what they're saying has already been said, they still find a new way to say it; a colorful metaphor that will launch the listener into a new paradigm of understanding. Instead of subtlety and shade, straight pop music reduces the human experience to a pallet of bold, primary emotions, like those flash cards for people with Asperger's. The effect is like condensing Monet's dreamy skylines down to a 16-bit RGB scale.
San Francisco’s Glow bring the experimentation back to the verse-chorus-verse-bridge form, letting their jangly chorused guitars fill out the horizon like a nuclear sunrise, while the melting woozy vocals make the ground gelatinous beneath your feet. Space Blanket, Glow's wonderful debut, was recorded at the late Elliott Smith's New Monkey Studio, and you can hear it, mostly in Cody Hamilton's vocals, which have that layered, choral effect Elliott Smith was so fond of; a cornerstone of the mid to late '90s and early '00s indie rock, everywhere from Quasi to Iron And Wine. It creates a large-scale lushness that makes you feel like you're listening to a party, even though two people largely construct this music.
Cody Hamilton plays nearly every instrument on Space Blanket except the "Ringo-style" drums, which are helmed by Ridge Kneipp. Their main influences, for this first outing, was the first Of Montreal record, Big Star guitars and Sparklehorse psychedelia. For those that don't speak journal-ese, this means lush orchestral pop, fleshed out from the holy trinity of guitar, bass and drums, with lots of characters and surreal situations, filigreed with lots of space echoes and glowing flangers.
My favorite thing about Space Blanket is that while it is catchy and energetic, it is still mellow and dreamy, making it perfect for a variety of moods and activitie; music for walking, for staring out the window and watching buds burst onto trees. It's exciting and energized, while remaining heartfelt, emotional and moving. Cody Hamilton's an exceptional musician, and it is truly a feat that he has played every instrument here himself. Hamilton is clearly an auteur with a vision and that needs to be applauded.
For those that still have hopes that the radio airwaves can be a source of wonder, marvel and inspiration, and not some manipulative robot remote control, who like to lose themselves on the dance floor, but as one among many, rather than succumbing to the crowd. Exceptional stuff.
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