Layers of heavily effected guitar hang loosely as a faded tapestry behind Michael Vidal’s pensive croon on his first release as a solo artist. Formerly the frontman for L.A.’s great tropical-punks-turned-darkwavers Abe Vigoda, Vidal is a modern-day goth romantic with his deep voice and yearning lyrics, the gleaming guitar lines and gently pulsing beat of “Dreams (Come Back to Me)” calling to mind bands like Cocteau Twins and The Durutti Column. “Burn” is the emotional centerpiece, as Vidal’s sensitive lyricism pours over looped arpeggiated guitars on a track that recalls the best of The Cure or Adore-era Smashing Pumpkins. Drizzling instrumental “Mono No Aware” moves into the percolating guitars of “Appraisal,” while “Sky Blue” takes that mechanically layered guitar and gives it a regal flair, evoking its namesake somehow both scientifically and dreamily. The album closes on a wash of guitars so hazily rendered they could to float away. At just seven songs, the album manages to leave its mark, a heavenly set of songs for nostalgic dreamers.
No Joy – Wait to Pleasure
A mistake some neo-shoegaze bands make is avoiding the loud guitars the genre is partially based upon without making up for it in melody or some other distinguishing feature. Not so with No Joy, whose debut Ghost Blonde was slathered in distortion and reverb — so much so, in fact, that it did tend to wash them out. Not so with follow-up Wait to Pleasure, which ratchets up the songwriting without sacrificing much in the way of pulverizing guitar power, in a way previewed on their Negaverse EP last year. “E” tunnels along on the strength of a heavily distorted bass that gives anchor to Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd’s guitar feedback and cooing vocals. “Hare Tarot Lies” crushes through with heavy power chords and femme vocals that recall the best of ’90s female-led alt-rock bands (underrated acts like Lush and Veruca Salt) while paying homage to their usual checklist of influences, such as Swervedriver and My Bloody Valentine. With the sonics in check, No Joy seem to feel free to explore their pop side on the rest of the album, on the church-like melodies of “Prodigy” and Strawberry Switchblade-esque '80s pop of “Lunar Phobia.” Not all of their gambits work, as they miss a vocal cue on “Slug Night” that could have made it a single, and “Blue Neck Riviera’s” rapping is questionable, even if the song is saved by a melodically charging second half. But even these foibles are mostly endearing, as Wait to Pleasure never wears out its welcome across its 11 tracks. They sound like a band secure in their own sound and trying out new things here and there, occasionally coming up with a power-pop gem like “Lizard Kids,” featuring sweet vocals akin to Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval over muscular, bass-driven riffs. One expects them to continue tinkering with their sound; Wait to Pleasure suggests No Joy can become a great pop band. For now, they’ll have to settle for being one of the best shoegaze bands around.