Personnel: Nolan Thies, Aaron Closson (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Toby Pipes (guitar, keyboards); Brent Elrod (guitar); Taylor Young (drums).
Audio Mixer: Nolan Thies.
Recording information: Bpl Studios, Dallas, TX; The Bunker Studio, Brooklyn, NY; The ClubCasa Blueroom, Brooklyn, NY.
Long in the making, the debut album by Brooklyn-based duo the Blessed Isles mixes the chiming guitars of dream pop with driving rhythms inspired by Brit-pop and new wave. Vocalist Aaron Closson (formerly of Dallas alternative rock group the Hourly Radio) has a light, wispy voice that blends perfectly with the layers of crepe-thin guitars. While they have a knack for atmospheric sounds, the songs themselves are actually quite solid and poppy. Many of the songs have uptempo rhythms recalling New Order or even the Cure's more sprightly moments like "In Between Days." Songs such as "Like I Am Dreaming" tuck in a bit of gliding My Bloody Valentine-esque guitar underneath their galloping rhythms, but the boost of distortion propels the songs rather than drowning them. "Confession" is the most overtly New Order-sounding moment, with bright, pulsating synths, smooth guitars, and apologetic lyrics that seem to counteract the happy-sounding music. "Chase Away the Sun" is a bit slower and more Cocteau Twins-like, but without quite reaching the level of otherworldly strangeness as that group. "Touch" is easily the album's most urgent, anthemic song, adding a huge dose of tension to their sound. The synth arpeggios and seemingly optimistic tone (but still somewhat sad lyrics) of "Assumption" seem directly inspired by the type of '80s new wave that was aimed at the pop charts rather than college radio. The album curiously ends with "Proxy," a brief instrumental with scorching yet controlled guitars. The album ends up being quite refreshing in the way it mines '80s sounds rather than the grunge-like heaviness that most shoegaze revivalists seem to prefer. ~ Paul Simpson