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album review: craft spells, gallery

It is hard not to compare Craft Spells’ new EP, Gallery, with their entrancing debut album of last year, Idle Labor. Those as yet uninitiated into the warm, fuzzy dream that is glo-fi, should find themselves a copy of the latter as soon as possible. But it would seem as though Gallery is like the entrée that came after the main meal.

The question of why the band would release an EP, specifically this EP, at this moment in time comes to mind. By no means is it an unenjoyable offering but it provides little in the way of band development – in fact, it seems more like a collection of those songs that did not quite fit into the previous LP, but were too good to languish as B-sides. This impression is furthered by the noticeable silent spaces left at the end a couple of the tracks; it is as though there is an acknowledgement that the tracks need a little break between them, lest the transition from one to the other be too jarring.

Having said this, there are one or two – subtle – indications that the band is evolving.

It is a compelling feature of this genre of music that while the heavy use of synth and processed beats presents an upbeat front, the vocals would suggest something darker. This undertone has been amped-up a notch in Gallery; take ‘Leave My Shadow’, in which the vocalist Justin Paul Vallesteros announces he will “tear through you and drain your blood”. It is not only the subject matter,\ but the way in which the vocals are used as a backdrop to the rest of the sound (and not the other way around) that creates a distance between he who is singing, and those who are listening. While in the previous release, Vallesteros was remote but hopeful, here there is a new tinge of despair. This is particularly noticeable in ‘Warmth’, in which the vocals are, by contrast, colder than the song title would suggest. If this was not enough, the breathy shockwave “fuck this acceptable feeling” of ‘Gallery’ is a line notable for being one case in which the vocals are forcibly jolted from their background position, and not only for featuring the album’s only noticeable expletive.

Idle Labor was a stunningly graceful announcement of what pop is capable of, when feather-quilted with enough heart and soul. Perhaps Gallery’s greatest problem is that it could not surpass this level of feeling. Having said this, it should be noted that that is probably the EP’s only main problem. So, while it may not have made it to the moon with Idle Labor, Gallery still easily reaches the stars.

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