In their native Kingston, Ontario, PS I Love You keeps a reasonably low profile. Despite their homegrown allure, they are confined to playing shows in pubs at Queen’s University, and are underappreciated by their target demographic. The larger venues are saturated with DJs from abroad, almost all of whom pander to the student body by playing music to drink, drop and smoke to. In this sense, PS I Love You’s home turf is unfriendly to their cause of building chirpy, hummable tunes in their garages.
PS I Love You’s first record, 2010’s Meet Me at the Muster Station, was chockfull of charisma and small-town charm. Attributes that can be readily explained by the band’s origins. On Death Dreams, they sound like they’re ready to expand.
PS I Love You has never sounded burdened by the typical limitations of a two-person setup. Death Dreams’ loops of feedback, ghostly monologues and multipronged guitar attacks lash out, often in tandem, making the music feel big. Following the suitably unnerving title track, “Sentimental Dishes” thunders in with the force of a parade; its monster riff, sonorous drumming and great vocal hook make for a tremendous statement right out of the gates. It’s reminiscent of some of the gems on Muster Station, most notably “Scattered.”
Just a cursory glance at Death Dream’s tracklisting reveals how eager Paul Saulnier and Benjamin Nelson are to develop their horizons. “Toronto” and “First Contact” are impulsively exploratory. “2012, It’s already happening,” Saulnier insists on the latter. It bursts with fuzzy, bluesy riffs and transitions seamlessly from one melodious frame of reference to another. It is in the music where the duo excels the most. Triumphant and defiant, “Red Quarter” scratches away with its two-note hook until you succumb to its melancholy squall. The need to experience something alien, something foreign, encircles many of the songs, even if they offer up little in the way of sonic innovation.
It reaches upward and outward, but Death Dreams also sound more meticulous than its predecessor. At least in places. Paul Saulnier hams up his exuberantly pitchy warble more than he ever has before on “Don’t Go,” the ache in his voice effectively projecting the urgency of his message. His guitar rings out mournfully, then climaxes gracefully amidst a desperate plea to prevent, or at least postpone, the departure of a loved one. “Future Dontcare” is a wobbly jam that feels banged out instead of laboured over, perfectly suited for Saulnier’s airy shrieks into the microphone. In maintaining some of this looseness, PS I Love You occasionally threaten to turn sloppy, but it’s mostly an empty threat.
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