Celestial Shore is just a fancy way of saying “space beach”—which is apropos given that the Brooklyn band’s second album, Enter Ghost, casts a cerebral lens on that mid-’90s indie-rock moment when seemingly every aspiring wool-toqued act had a nonsensical name like Space Beach. But it’s also a perfect summation of their contradictory aesthetic, with frontman Sam Owens’ sundazed lyrical meditations pining for a balmy, breezy paradise that’s forever on the horizon, but ultimately obstructed by the distracting bustle and suffocating noise pollution of unrelenting urbanism. Celestial Shore songs are like a Club Med advertisement… plastered on the side of a bus that’s just sped through a puddle and doused you in slush on a dreary January morning.
Given their jazz-school chops, Celestial Shore have always abided by a policy of “why settle for three chords when 17 will do?” On their 2013 debut 10x, their quirks and tics felt like genial gesticulations in sync with a post-Dirty Projectors world, while the backing vocals of the since-departed Lorely Rodriguez (aka rising synth-pop diva Empress Of) provided a calming counterpoint to the songs’ architectural-degree complexity. With the band now pared down to a trio featuring Owens, bassist Greg Albert, and drummer Max Almario, Enter Ghost untangles the knottier aspects of the band’s sound, but the 90-degree kinks are still very much visible. They haven’t so much focused their songwriting approach as harnessed their fidgety energy into more powerful spurts, with the band’s intricate interplay emphasizing their pop instincts rather clashing against them.
In its most spirited stretches, Enter Ghost imagines the new, more poised album we have yet to receive from the recently reunited Unicorns, with songs like “Now I Know” and “Same Old Cult Story” story striking a similar balance of winsome, ’60s-psych melodies and structural instability. As was the case with 10x standout “Valerie” (not a Steve Winwood cover), the highlight here is a customized ode to another girl already mythologized in the rock canon that’s slotted into the second-batter position: “Gloria” rides a Doolittle bass groove into a big-Deal chorus, though the real hook isn’t Owens’ ascendant, airy sigh, but the labyrinthine yet oddly catchy chord progression running circles around it. And as the wistful “Weekenders” proves, sometimes the most startling thing this tightly wound band can do is just chill out for a minute: the song’s compulsive verses give way to a gorgeous anti-chorus of whispered, daydreamy incantations and jangly strums that repeat and recede like ocean waves softly cresting onto the sand.
However, even on a lean 33-minute record, Celestial Shore struggle to maintain a consistent balance of inspired and insolent. Momentum sags amid the sludgy terrain of “Shell Shocked” (where Owens’ vaporous vocals and pig-squealed guitar-playing sound like they belong in different songs), while the lumbering psych-rock of “I Hide” and smash-and-grab garage-punk of “Pass Go” don’t so much throw curveballs as wrecking balls, toppling their shaky structures with forced freakouts. But in the same way that they can unnecessarily derail solid songs, Celestial Shore can also instantly transform the staid into something splendorous, like when the twee solipsism of closing lullaby “Goodbye” blossoms into a kaleidoscopic cluster of barbershop harmonies. So while Enter Ghost abruptly turns elation into frustration and back again, for Celestial Shore, disorder is the norm—after all, at the space beach, sinking and swimming are one and the same.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1uYvZTE