Audio Mixer: Chris Coady .
Recording information: Manhattan; Rad Studio, Brooklyn.
After nearly a decade with his synth-canoodling indie pop band Hooray for Earth, lead singer and songwriter, Noel Heroux, feeling the pressure of certain expectations, called it quits and set out for a fresh start. Though membership would expand when it came time for live shows, that "clean slate," Mass Gothic, operated as a solo affair throughout the first album's writing and recording process, which took place at Heroux's home. The resulting self-titled debut is more mass than gothic, pinballing between lively synth pop, crunchy lo-fi, and sweeping guitar-based tunes, nearly all wistful in tone but with nary a dour moment. "Every Night You've Got to Save Me," but for Heroux's always pensive-sounding vocals and self-doubting lyrics ("I make my mind up like several times a year/Really this time, really this time"), is downright effervescent with female "ooh ooh" backing vocals, skipping pop drums, and a hooky, insistent chorus. Similarly, if darker, "Want To, Bad" and "Territory" are driving, dancy pieces of synthy post-punk. The meat of the album, however, comprises dramatic, searching, guitar-centric songs, some of which wallow in moments of immensity. "Nice Night," for instance, churns and strums its way from brooding reflection to quaking wails ("Every day in the morning/The night begins not to be"). More experimental in nature are the daydreamy, ever modulating "Own the Road" and the psych/garage-inspired tome, "Soul." The lo-fi vibe and scattered effects present throughout Mass Gothic tie everything together, so it doesn't play like a jumble but rather a passionate, moody exploration matched by its impressionistic, uncertain lyrics ("What to hold onto?/It's easier today/Give me time anyway"). Not for background listening, the album rewards repeat plays and gets the new project off to an impressively cathartic start. ~ Marcy Donelson