(CAPTURED TRACKS; 2014)
Three-piece band from Portland, Oregon, a town that produces great bands consistently. Vaguely lumped into a category called “dream pop” cause it’s, well, dreamy and sometimes evocative and features an alluring female voice (in this case, that of Charlie Hilton). Catchy hooks, lyrical phrases that jump out of the mix and sometimes stick with you (like the repeated refrain “Are you one of us?”on the title track and “I’ll give you something for the pain” from “1000 Years.”
That’s a lazy short review of Blouse’s second release so far, and probably as much as most people would want to know about this trio. But actually, it’s worth elaborating just a little. It’s worth saying that Blouse are sounding good to me on a sunny afternoon when I’m loaded down with worries, with my attention divided, and decisions that I don’t feel like making. Cue the sonic narcotic! IMPERIUM hits me as a kind of pleasant, melodic, vaguely nostalgic jangle pop that doesn’t make me work too hard. Sometimes I don’t MIND when a record challenges the shit out of me, and I have to think about what its intentions are. And other times, damn it, I just want the thing to sound good right away, to quickly justify its existence, in other words. Hilton, producer/multi-instrumentalist Jacob Portrait and bassist Patrick Adams have obliged with a rather lush (reminiscent, actually, of the BAND Lush), shiny sound on these 12 tracks that is unpretentious and sometimes downright stirring. I pretty much instantly took to the off-kilter ’80s-retro psych-out of “Eyesite” and especially the Scandinavian-style emotional immediacy of Hilton’s voice on “1000 Years,” the melancholy “Capote” and the straightforward love plea, “Trust Me.” See the Swedish bands Club 8 and the Concretes for reasonable corollaries.
“A Feeling Like This” gives you, or at least it gave ME, a feeling like that… a memory of some past new band I liked and got excited about when I heard them for the first time. Hilton half sings, half speaks some of her lyrics in a most beguiling way on this track, and you can only hope to be the inspiration for this sort of feeling in a significant companion sometime in your life. The rockingest song is “Arrested,” which is all REM-style forward motion, with a layer of shoegaze woven in organically. Hilton sometimes sounds a little detached on tracks like this (not that it doesn’t feel right for the music), and maybe even somewhat samey if you’re seeking cafeteria catharsis. But in their own way, Blouse manage to diversify the sound from track to track – an unexpected bit of echo here, some discordant mixing flourishes there. And “Happy Days,” one of the most atmospheric, compelling tracks, hints at the eccentrically majestic heights this band might be capable of. “I have stars in my eyes,” sings Hilton, and this kinda thing might land her on the soundtrack to an arty European film. But vulnerability and worry are underneath this swirl of sound somewhere. “There is no shelter from this storm/Nothing in nature can keep my body warm,” our chanteuse complains on “No Shelter,” and although she offers a temporary solution in the next verse, she’s definitely all up in her mind here. But that’s okay, the music is still kinda soothing, and it got me out of MY mind. Blouse ON, angst OFF. A little IMPERIUM can’t cure what ails ya, perhaps, but it can push it into the distance. That’s more than most records do, so thanks, kids!