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Hatchie - Keepsake Music Album Reviews

Hatchie's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.
Shoegaze offers the perfect place to bury bad feelings; there is a storied legacy of groups like Slowdive and Mazzy Star sinking Tory conservatism and post-breakup remorse into hazy swirls of distortion. Harriette Pilbeam uses Hatchie as an outlet for more quotidian concerns — friendships, romances, nostalgia. On her EP Sugar & Spice, Pilbeam offered glassy guitars, long sighs, and some bright choruses, but there was nothing darker beneath the surface to reward your close, ongoing attention. She promised a broader palette for her debut, but Keepsake feels hemmed in by the same lack of depth. Pillbeam's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.





Yeasayer - Erotic Reruns Music Album Reviews

A slight and unwaveringly safe 30 minutes, Yeasayer’s latest goes down easier than anything the band has ever done, while making less of an impression.

For a band that sounded so far out at the time, there was a lot of precedent for Yeasayer’s eccentricities. With their first two albums, 2007’s All Cymbals Hour and 2010’s Odd Blood, the band charted a Venn Diagram of nearly every major indie rock trend of the era, shading their art rock with Animal Collective’s hippie splatter, MGMT’s burnt-out party psych, and TV on the Radio’s dark plays on Peter Gabriel, while touching on R&B, African music, and just about anything else that was music-blogger catnip during those years. Did I mention they were from Brooklyn? Do I need to mention they were from Brooklyn?

It was almost uncanny, Yeasayer’s ability to embrace all the right sounds at exactly the right time, yet they pieced these styles together so inventively that they rarely came across as opportunistic. Whatever they may have lacked in originality they made up for with creativity, and their records were so generous with leftfield surprises that you could forget how of-the-moment they were. They could dole out pop pleasures but they could just as easily make your skin crawl. Odd Blood is most remembered for the euphoric delights of “O.N.E.” and “Ambling Alp,” but it opened with “The Children,” a skeevy number that played like the imagined soundtrack to an alien ritual sacrifice. The band was always most exciting when they were kind of a mind fuck.

The trio's fifth album Erotic Reruns begs for some of that old interdimensional weirdness. A slight and unwaveringly safe 30 minutes, it goes down easier than anything the band has ever done, while making less of an impression. Pivoting hard from the heady psychedelia of 2016's Amen & Goodbye, Yeasayer fall back on the same good-times and falsetto formula of Portugal. The Man or every other similarly punctuated alternative band that’s learned to crib just enough from Maroon 5 to secure some licensing deals. 

The most shocking thing about the record is its pep. With its Emotional Rescue strut, opener “People I Love” could easily dance its way into Spotify’s crossover playlists. The album’s big attempt at an earworm, “Ecstatic Baby” is a slaphappy serving of Midnite Vultures-style funk. They're both “fun:” in the way that pre-show movie theater trivia or gas-pump infotainment segments are, diversions pitched so nondescript to its hard to imagine anybody gleaning meaningful enjoyment from them.

Only the occasional shot of bitter politics offsets the album’s pervading syrupy sweetness. “Blue Skies Dandelions,” ostensibly about James Comey’s firing and Donald Trump’s ego, rides an easy groove that disguises its subject matter. “24-Hour Hateful Live!” comes closer to drawing blood, with lyrics that rhyme "Steven Miller" with “child killer” and “Sarah Sanders” with “propagandist.” “Goebbels might be her true Pa,” Chris Keating sings, pulling no punches, but the music itself is too staged and tasteful to rile any real emotion or capture the misery and chaos of the modern news cycle. Even with a layer of blustery saxophones amplifying its message, the song has all the anger of a high school musical.

I wonder what Odd Blood-era Yeasayer could have done with the outrages of Trump administration as an animating muse. At their peak they could have made music almost as unnerving as the headlines, but it’s been albums since they’ve conjured that intensity. Somewhere over the last decade they exhausted their imagination. There’s a danger in over-romanticizing Yeasayer’s early records just because they felt so fresh—in truth these guys have never been especially deep songwriters or distinguished lyricists, and they’ve always struggled to match their style with substance. The difference, though, is those records could genuinely thrill. Erotic Reruns never does.

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