Craft Spells – Idle Labor

Rating: ★★★½ ·

It’s not that Craft Spells are necessarily a new band, nor are they one bringing you anything particularly new in the way of bedroom pop, but that isn’t going to devalue their version, or your likelihood of unlimited enjoyment.  Captured Tracks has just released the group’s record, Idle Labor, and like similar artists coming off the label, it’s chock full of shaking percussion and darkly tinged lyrical affectation, leaving listeners spinning about their bedrooms or dingy clubs, whatever works.

One of the first winners from Idle Labor is going to be “You Should Close the Door,” which has a hint of jangle to the guitar work, though it leans more towards a certain lo-fi affinity along coastal regions.  The bright hues of the chords are juxtaposed with the baritone vocals of JP Vallesteros, providing a haunting effect for those with their ears tuned in closely.  But, while the guitars play an underlying role in the sound of Craft Spells, it’s the percussive element that definitely influences the band and fans alike.

“Your Tomb” really has a steady pacing to its drumming, which gives a pleasurable pace to a track that otherwise appears quiet.  Gentle touches of percussion dictated the movement in your feet, and you’ll know after a couple of spins precisely what I’m talking about here, as your feet will grow weary.  Okay, perhaps the sharply ornate guitar sound coming from tracks such as “After the Moment,” probably contradict the idea that guitar sounds are meant to service the drumming here, but that’s precisely what seems to make Idle Labor ultimately successful.  You’re enjoying the groove of it all, then comes a track that encourages the swaying of hips and possible twee two-stepping on the dance floor.

However, it’s not all pseudo-angular dance moments, as there’s definitely a subtle new-wave vibe you’ll find featured in various tracks.  “Given the Time” begins with a darker intro than almost all the other tracks, yet it quickly picks back up into the 80s vibe of swirling melodies surrounded by somewhat monotone vocal displays.  Sure, you can probably do a nice stomp of the boot if you’re sticking to the bass groove on the track, but it definitely has an underlying pop element that’s buried, more so than on other tracks. “Party Talk” has the same mannerisms, once you consider some programmed percussive elements being added here, which don’t dominate Idle Labor, as much as one might think, not noticeably at least.  It also features a great deal of experimentation, when you compare it to some of the more minimalist songs.

It’s easy to say that Craft Spells have crafted (see what I did there) another bedroom gem for Captured Tracks, but the more you involve yourself in a close listening process, the more other elements slowly begin to leak out, making this more than just a casual listen for fans of the style.  Idle Labor, while stylistically similar to other acts on the label, and in the scene in general, eventually moves itself out from beneath its peers, leaving you with a deeply personal listen that’s fitting for play at home, at the office or at the club…what a trifecta of pop magic.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/After-the-Moment-1.mp3]

Download: Craft Spells -After the Moment [MP3]

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