Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Album: All the Stars in Your Eyes
Rating: ******** (8/10)
I listen to enough music at this point to be pretty jaded, and even when I really like something, there's a certain rush that I just don't get anymore. Sure, I can get excited about a lot of bands and jump up and down on the subway platform like a maniac and listen to songs on repeat for days on end, but there's a particular thrill of discovery that's an inevitable casualty of time and experience.
There are a handful of bands, however, who can bring that feeling back, like I'm fifteen and putting on some mix CD from my bandmate for the first time. Back then, everything sounded fresh and original but now, it's a rare band that doesn't automatically lock into a neat little slot of context - influences, artistic movements, harmonic analysis and all the rest. But sometimes, with originality and passion, a band can shut down my nerdy neurons and just make me happy. And 28 Degrees Taurus is one of these few.
It's hard to say exactly why. After all, it's not hard to play "name the influence" with the band's music - dream pop, shoegaze, psychedelic and ambient music make up 28DT's not-so-uncommon parentage. Still, there's something in the druggy haze that sets the band apart, a sort of new interpretation, or misinterpretation, of its sources. Like so many great bands, 28DT seems to have found their genius by accident, by following instinct and passion and genuine insanity and having enough talent to make their unintended experiments well worthwhile.
I don't want to exaggerate the band's originality. In many ways, they sound like any of dozens of the shoegaze revival bands that populate our fair East Coast these days. The clouds of guitar, measured drumming and subtle, guiding bass don't immediately stand out. It's in smaller ways that 28DT make themselves relevant. The ringing guitar riffs often have just the slightest hint of oriental modes, while the interplay of Karina Dacosta's floating, high-range melodies and Jinsen Liu's nearly-as-high, aspirated, otherworldly whisper make the record unmistakably 28 Degrees Taurus. The guitars wobble and shimmer if held underwater - in fact, even the drums seems as if seen from behind glass, perfectly clear yet somehow distant.
On the opening track, Dacosta's vocals rise with noticeable purity above the uncalm noise of the guitar in a sort of half-human duet. "Turn Me On" achieves a similar effect, but built on a more solid rhythm section into a more conventional song. Next up, "Universal Love" severs the album's last ties with the earth as Liu's strange voice takes the fore. The album doesn't wane on "Seeking Heat" and "Electricity" either, the former held aloft by Dacosta's breathtaking melody and the latter driven forward by Liu's gently raging guitar.
The entire album doesn't quite match its opening. "Sun Chaser" is an interesting experiment in blatantly country-style slide guitar, with a 28DT twist. The band tries the same experiment again "Missing You," again with success. Unfortunately, some of the other later tracks are just not as memorable and not only mildly disappoint, but also dilute the quality of the earlier songs. Still, they aren't bad songs by any means and the album is strong enough to withstand some simply "pretty good" filler.
I don't know that 28 Degrees Taurus will ever catch on in a big way and I don't know that they necessarily want to. Still, they remain one of the best and by far one of the most underrated East Coast bands around. They are better than 95% of what gets love from the indie scene. That's not just because they're more talented but also because they're more passionate and honest and pour more love into their music than the vast majority of bands. They have that purity of intention and a courage of exploration that, as a listener, I lost long ago. And reminding even a few listeners of that feeling is more than most bands can ever hope to achieve. Thanks, guys.