May 30, 2016

Review: Elvis Depressedly | Holo Pleasures / California Dreamin'

Some three years on from its original release, revered Boston label Run For Cover Records is reissuing the EP that first brought mid-fi hitmakers Elvis Depressedly to the blogosphere's attention. This go-round the short set Holo Pleasures is packaged with California Dreamin', a second EP of music written almost contemporaneously with the first whose half-dozen numbers are only now getting their first pressing to wax. The resulting quasi-long player is remarkably consistent given it was pasted together ex post facto, and will appeal to both new and old fans.

While it would be two additional years until Elvis Depressedly broke through with its seventh LP New Alhambra, the release of Holo Pleasures in 2014 garnered some buzz upon its initial release; it still holds up as a fine collection of pop songs, each one melting with a woozy melancholy. Opener "Okay" underscores band mastermind Mat Cothran's affinity for a gloomy lyric, as he sings of "true love [turning] to sickness." Tropes of isolation, love gone wrong and death recur, lending the set a pleasing -- albeit dark -- consistency. "Inside You" perhaps best encapsulates the now-trio's aesthetic, as Mr. Cothran sings of the track's subject being "loved to death." Here Elvis Depressedly combines its morbid streak with a fascination with fated love. Both suit the act's bedroom pop sound (what else is there to do but morbidly fantasize when in one's room?). Elsewhere "Pepsi/ Coke Suicide" echoes the weighted strumming of My Bloody Valentine's "Sometimes," and marries those off to glacial synths befitting mid-period The Radio Dept. And highlight "Weird Honey" carries the feel of a Flying Nun oddity, and then clipped vocals and a jaunty arcade theme that sees the song out. It's all fabulously bleak and equates to an elongated, metaphoric stroll through the drizzle.

Considering the quality of Holo Pleasures, one might reasonably question the necessity of tacking on California Dreamin' to the proceedings, or if their inclusion devalues the original set of songs. But there's real continuity to the two sets of songs -- reinforced by the tasteful melancholy -- that makes a strong argument in favor of the new package. The succession of the latter's opener "Angel Cum Clean" following Holo Pleasures' closer "Thinning Out" feels seamless. The lyrics to "Angel Come Clean" mine fairly dark territory, an account of drug use while listening to bands named after drugs, which is recounted over atop the wasted elegance of a woozy synthesizer. "Thinning Out" arrives in a similar state of forlorn dreaminess; although its lyrics aren't as intelligible, it also ends with a sound reminiscent of a toy keyboard melting. Granted, the two tracks use different hues and tones to arrive at roughly the same color, and this is the case throughout. "Up In The Air" ends the collection with its vaguely trance-esque keys reverberating in a manner suggesting loneliness. As Cothran sings "everything I knew is up in the air," one feels the uncertainty of "Okay" all over again, unaltered by any intervening epiphanies. Sure, the new release's decidedly depressing tone -- and one's enjoyment of it -- rests upon one's taste for such a gloomy reverie, especially given that summer is just about upon us. Although chances are, if you enjoyed Holo Pleasures, then you'll find little at fault with its new home alongside sister tracks. Run For Cover issues Holo Pleasures / California Dreamin' June 3 in a limited edition of 3,000 vinyl LPs pressed to baby blue in bone, half oxblood/half olive and green with grey splatter media. The release will also be available as a CD, cassette tape and digital download; all formats can be pre-ordered right here. -- Theo Gorst

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