Album Picks: School of Seven Bells, Quilt, Yuck

Posted by Billy Gil, February 26, 2016 09:06am | Post a Comment

School of Seven BellsSVIIB

School of Seven Bell’s fourth and final album is a beautiful tribute to the band and its founding member Benjamin Curtis, who died three years ago after battling a rare form of lymphoma, leaving co-member Alejandra Deheza to finish the album they’d started with another producer. But SVIIB isn’t an overly sad affair, though knowledge of the story behind it certainly cast the lyrics of sadness and longing in a different light — most of them were written before Curtis’ diagnosis, in the wake up of the breakup of Curtis and bandmate Alejandra Deheza’s romantic relationship and their forging forward as friends and bandmates. SVIIB looks back fondly on their time together. The band’s combination of dream-pop and electro-pop has never been more lucidly realized than on songs like “Ablaze,” which opens the album on a rush of teenage emotion and big synth-laden beats, like Erasure’s new-wave optimism reimagined for a generation weaned on M83 and Chvrches. “There was a you before me, there was a me before you,” Dehenza sings with hip-hop inflected delivery on “On My Heart.” “A Thousand Times More’s” New Order-style heartfelt synth-pop and the freestyle-flavored “Signals” call to mind happier times for the band, when they were a trio on albums like Disconnect From Desire. On the devastating “Confusion,” Deheza sings wearily over a billowing cloud of synths and organs, exhaling the line, “I understand nothing of these changes,” with the sense of sitting at rock bottom and staring upward. That impression of a light in the tunnel that SVIIB leaves you with makes the album feel not like a sad ending, but a celebration of their work.

Quilt Plaza

Boston fourpiece Quilt have released two fine albums on Mexican Summer thus far, but their third album takes them to the next level. The songs on Plaza carry a rustic quality, full of sunlit harmonies and country-rock flourishes, but they’re also unabashedly modern and informed by rock ‘n’ roll from The Velvet Underground through Sonic Youth. “Passersby” opens with Eastern-flavored riffs and melodies, which make for as subtly propulsive drone-pop piece and set the backdrop perfectly for Anna Fox Rochinski honeyed voice. Co-guitarist/singer Shane Butler Shane Butler takes the lead for the Revolver-style paisley rocker “Searching For,” with the rest of the band providing delicious harmonies. However pastoral and lovely their music may be, they keep things musically interesting on “Roller’s” silky groove and with “O’Connor’s Barn,” on which alternatingly atonal and interlocking guitars build a swaying framework for a grounded melody. But they’ll also indulge in a little straightforward AM Gold with an acoustic love song like “Something There.” Quilt prove Americana and post-punk aren’t such strange bedfellows after all.

YuckStranger Things

On their third album, Yuck continue to make no bones about reconfiguring ’90s and early ’00s indie-rock as their own. For Chrissakes, one of their songs is called “Cannonball.” But it’s also a very good song, as are the rest of 11 tracks on Stranger Things. Depending on their mood, they’ll summon Superchunk (“Hold Me Closer”) or Built to Spill (“Like a Moth”), but damn if it isn’t charming as hell when the singers harmonize “I hate myself” over fuzzy, jangly guitars on the Teenage Fanclub-esque title track. It comes across as a love letter to your favorite teenage mixtape. Even better is the grooving Fleetwood Mac-inspired "As I Walk Away," which shows the band stretching into new territory. While Yuck wear their influences on their cardigan sleeves, it doesn’t matter — it’s the attitude and chops that count.

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Album Picks (146), New Albums (213), New Releases (214), School Of Seven Bells (5), Quilt (1), Yuck (3)