album review: craft spells, idle labor
Idle Labor is the kind of album that would be playing in the background as you skip through the Autumn leaves or Spring daisies with that someone special. Yet when the bittersweet end comes – as it always must with young love – Idle Labor will still be there. I would know – introduced to me by someone special, so that I will forever think of him when I hear ‘Party Talk’, it was nevertheless able to comfort me when the party ended.
Craft Spells is the glow-fi, retro pop creation of Justin Vallesteros. The story no longer seems to be new: Vallesteros, experimenting with tunes in the protective cocoon of his Californian bedroom, managed to attract an online audience that propelled his music out of cyber-space and into, well, real space. Now with three bandmates, Vallesteros has given us his debut offering, Idle Labor.
It is a pleasing feature of the record that the vocals share in, rather than dominate over, the other sounds on the tracks. In certain cases, it even seems like the vocals recede to the background to let the electro/drum machine riffs shine. Synth is used liberally throughout, giving the album a comfortingly warm, soft aura. The slight echoing, distancing effect placed on the vocals makes the songs sound like they are being sent from somewhere…somewhere you want to be.
Despite my aforementioned history with the song, I feel justified in saying that ‘Party Talk’ is one of the record’s highlights. ‘After The Moment’ is also really special. It captures something about the modern experience of the L word – or lust, or infatuation, or just really, really liking – and how exciting and sweet and slightly confusing it can be: “Maybe it’s a kiss/ And a touch/ That makes me want you more than love”.
As its title would suggest, Idle Labor is a work of contradictions. Its ability to appeal to both the highs and lows of emotion has been mentioned above. One can also find in the album a pleasing contrast between the nostalgic and the here-and-now. It invites remembrances of a sweeter, simpler time – one that you may or may not have actually been present for. Yet it also has a distinctly modern sound that reminds you that life is going on all around, right now. And it sounds good.