Shadow Shadow Shade - Shadow Shadow Shade
Record Label: Public Records
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2010
Not making enough money? Don't even have a job? Your grades slipping? Throw all the worries out the window and spend 40 minutes with Shadow Shadow Shade's self-titled debut LP. Brazen, forward-thinking and deeply idealistic, Shadow Shadow Shade is a hard-charging, guitar-driven assault into 70s-era album rock, psychedelia and the much-maligned concept album.
Featuring seven members, who often sing in unison, the group employs four-part harmonies giving many of the songs a choir-like effect. Borrowing from the likes of shoegaze, opera, indie rock and orchestral pop, Shadow Shadow Shade is timeless, mind-numbing and epically dense. Employing head-scratching verses, the record bubbles and oozes with urgency and immediacy, a trait not often seen in the indie landscape.
Album opener "Is This a Tempest in the Shape of a Bell?" utilizes driving guitars, multi-person harmonies, an air-tight rhythm section and a slew of horns to offer up what is arguably the year's best opening track of any album released this year. The two-minute "Dark of Heather," moves towards placidity with panged vocals, tortured verses and enough apologia to make Kanye West blush.
Serving more as an introduction to "Pale of Fern," "Dark of Heather," is an interesting song if not a bit redundant. "Pale of Fern," on the other hand is far from repetitive. Percussive, snappy and entrancing, there's a theatrical and almost cinematic quality to every second.
Lead single "Say Yes," draws its inspiration from a bevy of triumphant horns, which shake and shiver with radiance. "Did Not The Lights Go Out For You?" opens with a near-two minute instrumental introduction before pushing into a nostalgic narrative about childhood that's as straightforward and earnest as anything else on the disc.
That it's also addictive and hard to shake makes it all the more indelible. The strains of an acoustic guitar open the quirky and enigmatic "Your Perfect Wilderness," a lush rumination aboutů..well, who really knows, what it's about. With searing guitar solos and ample vocal harmonies, the song is as transcendent, inviting and impressive as anything released all year.
The six-minute "Suffocate Up," employs squealing synths, punchy drums and angular guitars to make for the most vintage offering of the nine. To be fair, it's probably the disc's weakest song but the operatic female vocals and the surging final two minutes allow it to never once fall flat on its face. Penultimate cut "Line 'Em Up," begins with an acoustic guitar and is easily the album's most straightforward and by-the-book offering but is not without its own histrionics.
Much like "Pale of Fern," there's a theatrical quality at work here that's far too hard to imitate or better yet, replicate. The disc ends with the somber "Amputee," a celestial and puzzling quasi-instrumental that offers ample amounts of sonic dissonance before yielding to a narrative about an amputee and then moving back into instrumental mode. The end result is an unpredictable and deeply inspired final album and a most fitting book-end to a most refreshing work.
For many on the West Coast though this praise is nothing new. Discovered by influential pop artist Shepard Fairey the group was offered a residency at the revered LA venue Spaceland after playing only one show. Performing under the moniker Afternoons the group turned heads immediately and are the veteran of four SXSW. If for reasons unknown the music does not quicken your pulse, then perhaps the group's side project will.
As a precursor to the release of this debut, the septet is releasing a three-part, post-apocalyptic short film titled White Horse Trilogy, fearing several of their songs. The trilogy features Jason Ritter and Anna Wilson and is described by its director as a science fiction World War II film.
In short, Shadow Shadow Shade are as original and as forward-thinking as any band currently making music. While the seven musicians most certainly deserve ample amount of praise, accolades are due for producer Tom Biller, whose repertoire includes the likes of Karen O, Sean Lennon and Kanye West, to name a few. While there may bands more talented, there aren't any nearly as thrilling, hypnotic and cathartic as them. In an industry where twee pop offerings dot the landscape, Shadow Shadow Shade have indeed crafted an album with nary a flaw and nary any filler.
If this doesn't get people talking, then maybe we're all all just hollow and apathetic after all.