by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
It’s been a long while since there’s been this kind of excitement surrounding Saddle Creek Records: Three releases over the course of the past two weeks: Hop Along’s Painted Shut, Twinsmith’s Alligator Years and Icky Blossoms’ Mask. Boom-boom-boom.
So far, the Hop Along release has received the lion’s share of press (but then again, it’s been out the longest). In addition to its massive Pitchfork rating (7.9), the album received a whopping 4-star review in the new issue of Rolling Stone. And the record is among the top-10 highest rated at review aggregator Album of the Year with a composite rating of 83 out of 100 (based on 10 reviews). Impressive.
Not to be outdone, Pitchfork just reviewed the new Icky Blossoms record, giving it a respectable 6.8 rating. The review concluded with, “…a follow-up that finds Icky Blossoms letting their guard down and embracing the values of their music scene, where there’s no higher form of fashion than wearing your heart on your sleeve.” OK then.
I listened to the record over and over last night. The album trounces around with more unbridled energy than the band’s debut, relentlessly so. Mask isn’t so much a dance record as a rock album with a beat that leans closer to acidic psychedelic more than EDM or “electro-clash” (whatever that means). For my money, Mask has more infectious electronic hooks than the debut, which makes it more interesting, and more fun.
Sarah Bohling sounds like an altogether different vocalist, with a range that goes well beyond the deep, pronounced croak heard on the debut. Pitchfork noted this as well, saying about the band’s debut, “There were moments where the band’s primary singer Sarah Bohling in particular sounded as if she longed to emote, but she restrained herself, because genre protocol dictated she remain as dispassionate as the sequenced pulses behind her. On Icky Blossoms’ sophomore album Mask, Bohling recasts herself as a real, vulnerable human being.” Hear hear!
If there’s a criticism it’s that the album is too relentless, rarely letting up on the gas pedal. There’s nothing on the new record as campy or fun as “Babes” or as slinkly/slacker as “Perfect Vision,” though for sheer debauchery, nothing on the debut matches album highlight “Away from You” and the line “Let’s get together / There’s no afterlife.” Or the emotional punch of “Want You So Bad,” which starts off sounding like a lost Azure Ray track.
Allmusic.com — maybe the oldest online review site — came in with a 3-1/2 star review for Mask, pointing out: “…the inelegant use of compression that causes even the sweeter parts of Mask to slam like a digital hurricane becomes downright distracting, especially on the final two tracks which, consequently, are the most aggressive and harshest mixes on the album. Production missteps aside, there is some great material here and Icky Blossoms’ big new sound generally agrees with them.”
We’re still waiting for the Twinsmith reviews to come rolling in, though Allmusic has weighed in with a 3-star review, concluding: “…much of Alligator Years feels so familiar that it’s hard to distinguish them from the multitude of other generally pleasant bands working in this same milieu. Still, it’s a solid enough release by a talented young band who have the potential to grow into their own personality.”
Exciting times. And it’ll keep on rolling next month when the new Desaparecidos new record comes out on Epitaph the same day the new Digital Leather record comes out on FDH. I haven’t heard the Desa record yet. The DL record is a breakthrough of sorts for the band.
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Tonight at The Waiting Room, The Lone Bellow (Descendent) with Cereus Bright and Clarence Tilton. $15, 9 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.