Words by Sean Walsh
Captured Tracks is becoming synonymous with the progressive world of fashion-forward indie music culture. Boasting an enormously talented roster, it is no surprise that new releases are constantly and consistently being churned out by this intelligent label. Other artists like DIIV, Wild Nothing, Donovan Blanc and Mac DeMarco have earned much success through the Brooklyn imprint with their recently released or soon to be released sonic explorations.
Similarly to their label mates, Seattle’s Craft Spells is aiming to take a larger audience by storm with their brilliantly gentle approach to re-branding the illustriously symphonic and notoriously subdued-yet playful space of the dream state-aesthetic often taken on by dream-pop debutantes.
Their sophomore release Nausea is intelligently-youthful as it is mature and refined. This is not your banal approach to creating an auditory linkage from pop music to the dream world. Often harnessing airy synthesizers, light strolling guitars, and caressing vocal harmonies, the dream state can often only be characterized in one way: shimmering.
But is this really how all dreams unfold? Absolutely not. Dreams are not classifiable, as they link us to some wormhole on a different plane, and are often uncontrollable to those who haven’t reached that level of understanding yet. This record has linked the aforementioned wormhole to the world of nostalgia and wonder; creating sounds, that although may not inherently sound individually “dreamy” have invoked nothing short of the actual dream state.
“Laughing For My Life” is one of those songs that exemplifies this. The subtle piano and string usage in this song are perfectly positioned and invoke a sense of ease, bewilderment, joy, and exasperation all at the same time.
However, it is the song choices and the way in which they have been placed that intrigues me. Not so much in terms of the order of songs, but in terms of the order of things they are trying to evoke among each listener. It’s as if they are aware they are playing puppet masters, bringing us into and out of comfortable dreamy pop states, while cementing periods of inactivity through enchanting instrumentals, laced with brief flashes of impervious confusion and hazy perceptive inflection. This is where you feel that dream-state; maybe not so much in the shimmery bright-guitars, but in the moments where the shimmering meets the dull; when the truth meets a lie; when the uneasiness is displayed front and center like a show pony…However much validity you credit that with, is up to you, but I believe that there is much more than meets the eye with this record.
Especially in songs like “Breaking the Angle Against the Tide” and “If I Could,” there are definitive, concrete clues shared with us, shedding light on the new pop formulas they are experimenting with. While “If I Could” does not sound optimistic overall, its message and the way in which the instrumentals and percussion are crafted, drive toward the hope that maybe there is an eventual light at the end of the tune; the proverbial optimism we were looking for previously….or maybe not. Maybe that’s something you’ll never find and maybe it’s something that the boys in Craft Spells want you to feel like you are continuously clamoring for.
In the end don’t we all want what’s best for ourselves…the optimal solution? In theory yes, but sometimes searching for that optimism and getting stuck in the thick-otherworldly-undecipherable haze from time to time, is just as important and inspiring as being fed from life’s golden spoon every once and a while. So yeah, go ahead and drink it down. It tastes so damn good.
© June 10th, 2014
TheWaster.com | Seattle