Personnel: Chester Gwazda (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Cara Beth Satalino (vocals, guitar).
Recording information: Baltimore.
A Shedding Snake is the full-length debut of Outer Spaces, a project of indie singer/songwriter Cara Beth Satacino, who's cited Murmur-era R.E.M. as an influence on the album. Affable tunes, crafty chords, and restrained jangle mark the record, which was produced by Chester Gwazda, a prior collaborator of Satacino's, as well as Dan Deacon and Cloud Nothings, among others. With due attention paid to the songs themselves above all else, and allowing for unpolished grit, the record plays out under a light fog of wistful reflection, not unlike the aforementioned '80s LP. The aptly titled "Shade of Grey" typifies its balance of sweetness and weight with an easygoing melody carrying Satacino's cordial vocals as she sings about the lingering memory of an unwanted presence ("You don't think about it much, but it won't fade away"). It shares spacious arrangements with much of the album, its instrumentation comprising warm electric guitar, drums, demure keys, and touches of tambourine and whistling. The particularly early-R.E.M.-esque "Heavy Stone Poem" is one of the LP's more plaintive offerings, though its rich rhythm guitar palette and graceful, unexpected chord progressions brighten the proceedings. Elsewhere, a brief, remarkably saxophone-like guitar solo marks the bouncier "Stone and Water," and the closer, "What Is Real," strips things down to only guitar accompaniment as Satacino decides, "What is real?/I guess I don't care and I don't know." With 13 tracks and just one running longer than four minutes, A Shedding Snake has the feel of a classic pop record, one colored by bittersweetness and uncertainty, and full of just plain good songs. ~ Marcy Donelson