For a two-person band, Easter Island
makes incredibly lush, textured music, its multilayered guitars luminous like
Explosions in the Sky, drenched in indefinite overtones like early 1990s
shoegaze. From the video, it looks like both Payne brothers – Ethan and Asher –
play guitar, which explains the many different six-string sounds on hand. It
also appears that only one of them sings, in a sweet, diffident, tremulous way
that sounds undressed next to the band’s gleaming, post-rock guitar edifices.
This combination – of indie pop vulnerability and glistening
expanses of pedal-altered tone – sounds odd in theory but works amazingly well
on Frightened. Listen, if you need
proof, to the song-altering change-up in opener “Weekend,” where a power chord
leads into a floating, drifting chorus (“Welcome to the Eiffel Tower…you’re not
even all that lovely anyway”). It’s a beautifully large gesture, framed in rock
bravado but going misty at the edges. Later, on “Ginger,” to my ears the album’s
prettiest song, guitar tones turn sharp yet luminous, sounding much like the XX.
You hear the guitar as a bloodied knife cutting through water, trailing
billowing clouds of tone.
Not all the album’s tracks balance post-rock grandeur with
fey Brit pop romanticism. “Laika” eliminates vocals altogether, showcasing phosphorescent
textures of guitar against glacially-paced, triumphal beats. “The Light,” by contrast, leans more heavily
into indie pop, seeking solace (and a safe trip back from the bathroom) from a
lover asked to leave the light on. “Gray Tee” accentuates the easy Athens connection, a
tangle of Murmur-era guitar jangle
melting into swirling, droning Slowdive-ish distortion. The three opening cuts
– “Weekend,” “Hash” and “Ginger” – are the album’s clear highlights, but there
is something to treasure in every track that follows.
Easter Island has one
previous EP, 2011’s Better Things,
which won a small but rabid following among the few who heard it. (A PopMatters writer compared discovering
the EP with being early on R.E.M.’s Chronic Town.) Frightened is at least as good – and just as exciting. Personally, I haven’t been this
psyched about a new band since the first Fresh & Onlys album.
“Hash,” “Ginger” JENNIFER KELLY