Earlier in the year, Cut Copy released an album to both praise and criticism (cough), with one talking point being the seasonality of Zonoscope. See, it was a particularly summery record, released in the dead of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter. Pure X find themselves in a similar boat, with their debut full-length (after a couple shorter releases under their former moniker, Pure Ecstasy) a strikingly cold, yet colorful, effort. Pleasure would best be reserved for a cloudy morning, for a warm cup of coffee in a lonely house, for solitude. But, alas, it is July and it is hot as hell here in Southern California and listening to Pleasure just doesn’t feel totally right. But, well, that doesn’t mean it’s not pretty damn good.
If anything, it feels like Pure X has been preparing us for their unseasonable record through months of pre-release buzz-building offerings. The Austin, Texas trio offered non-album track “Back Where I Began” with their album announcement way back in the colder months of April, and kept interest piqued with the subsequent free gifts of “You’re In It Now” (also not on the album) and “Dry Ice.” So, with Pleasure‘s release, anyone who has been paying any attention may feel slightly jarred by the record’s woozy atmospheric ride, but not so much that they can’t take the journey over and over again. Afterall, Pure X did give them ample warning.
Pure X have crafted a dream-like (think more Galaxie 500 and less Beach House) tapestry that is as difficult to derail as a freight train once it builds up relative speed. Opening with the instrumental “Heavy Air,” the band thrives on layers upon layers of sound textures, making the song both sound and feel heavy, successfully offering an open door into the mind of Pleasure. But, returning to the train analogy, it does take a while for the album to get going, with “Twisted Mirror” coming four-tracks in and being the first ear-worm song in the collection. That being said, “Twisted Mirror,” with its heartbreaking falsetto hook, and the heavily backloaded rest of the album, are memorable enough to more than make-up for any weaker (and I say weak with a grain of salt) numbers.
Lyrically, Nate Grace’s words don’t resonate as a whole (as he is a fan of extending every word to emphasize sounds more than actual thoughts), but still certain lines linger in the space the band creates, giving the listener something to hold onto when he repeats “stuck living the same old song,” on “Stuck Living,” the album’s clear highlight. And, as the record slows to its conclusion, with the excellent “Dry Ice” and “Half Here,” there is little in the way of Pure X achieving their intent. “Half Here” holds together in ghostly limbo, staying true to its title by being neither here nor there, and proving that regardless of what the temperature is or how bright the sun is shining; that a well-made otherworldly experience is worth the effort; that sometimes music is worth the effort.
Plugging away since 1999, The National finally hit mainstream success with the release of their 2010 album High Violet. Of course, this entailed their first world tour, but in the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers, it’s only the backdrop for the relationship between lead singer Matt Berninger and his younger brother Tom, who had no idea that these short videos he was shooting would turn into a public document of their troubled, if still loving brotherhood.
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We talk with Yvonne Ambree and Jesse Barnes of Take Berlin about some of the records which influenced the recording of their debut EP, Lionize.
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