The Upshot: Skipping across the decades, influence-wise, the Sub Pop darlings still manage to keep its pop smarts fresh.
BY JONATHAN LEVITT
“I’m looking for a new direction” sings Brandon Summers on opener “Battle Lines”, which is an atmospheric track that has its pop sensibilities informed by the ‘80s with a 2015 spin. The album cover is the biggest hint that something has changed for the band with this latest release. With the rising sun imagery, and layered pastel clouds, it’s obvious this is a new day breaking for the band.
“Red Shifting” is another song that appealed to me upon first listen, with its danceable beat with an almost semi new wave vibe.
“Inconsequential Ties” feels like an early ‘70s Steve Miller tune. I keep expecting Summer’s to sing, “keep a rocking me baby!” I must admit it’s a really cool retro tune that’s quite catchy, and who knows it may end up in Vincent Gallo’s, Brown Bunny 2.
Jesting aside, the band’s ability to incorporate retro elements and keep it feeling fresh at the same time deserves some praise.
“Phantom Shore” is my favorite song on the record and worth the price of admission alone. It starts off with some pulsating synths, and then the drums and cymbals kick in. Once those are squarely in place, the guitar comes oscillating in, which reminds me of a Reg Smithies (Chameleons) guitar lick. The Chameleons never seemed to get the recognition they so rightfully deserved when they were making brilliant records back in the 80’s. Here The Helio Sequence have coopted the guitar and bass and synth sound of “Second Skin”. The band has managed to render these elements with great aplomb forging it with their own distinctive sound and hazy production, elevating the song into a very memorable pastiche of sound. With the duo’s songwriting skills never in doubt “Phantom Shore” is a brilliant sign of even greater things to come from this band.
In the little promo flyer that accompanied the album, the promotions people mention that this time around the band took their songs to their friends and fans to help compile the album. It seems things have worked out quite well in this instance. While I may disagree with the running order the songs, they do show a band reinvigorated by the creative process. The band says, “We were working so quickly that there was a running optimism.” It’s something that permeates almost all of the tracks on this album.
Filled with some genuinely memorable moments The Helio Sequence show that if a band is open to experimentation and letting the light of the new day shine in, fascinating things can truly happen.