Editorial Update: We now have an interview with Mr. Garber. Read it here.
I loved the many lives of Jeff Garber. Castor, Year of the Rabbit, The Joy Circuit and of course, National Skyline.
After a serious streak of music for MTV and films, National Skyline perfected in Love letters for the disenchanted their pop sensibilities without losing that elegant panache that they’ve treated us since their self-titled EP a lifetime ago. Sure, their music has evolved, taking a few strides away from the electronic framing of the classic This=Everything and more in the same zip code as their recent trio of releases from 2011: Primitive Parade, National Skyline and the very lovely Broadcasting.
So, yes, it’s far more pop than those spacier beginnings. Is this bad? Not at all. In fact, as music consumers, we are in desperate need of some great pop and this one is one heckuva meal. The songs are layered, but never overtly so that it loses itself in the atmospheres of Dream Pop or the wall of sound of Shoegaze. Think of any release by Doves and The Swells as drinking buddies of this album.
Album opener ‘Nobody loves you like I do’ embraces the powerful steps of mid 90s Cool Britannia, adapting that piano, bass and sustained guitar combo that is as comforting as a Pimm’s lemonade on a hot day. ‘I don’t want to fall in love’ takes a space pop route, feeling like a long lost relative of The Swells‘ ‘Trifecta’. A gorgeous track full of longing that never allows itself to drown in self-pity and some of the ideas here are re-visited, perhaps from another point of view, in the equally thoughtful ‘If you believe’.
‘Golden Days’, the delicious pop track presented by Jeff Garber a couple of days ago as the first taste of the album, is the poppiest moment of the album, almost a radio friendly song that feels nostalgic, almost as a custom made soundtrack for the listener’s flashback to a simpler time (1994 for me, please.) ‘Start a fire’ follows this path, sporting a drum crescendo that an extra serving of emotion to the track, instantly elevating the track to another layer in the atmosphere.
Even with that vast sound explored, there are mostly subdued, almost acoustic moments in Love letters for the disenchanted. ‘I was a ghost’ relishes on regret and a bit of longing, ‘Fever Dreams’ is a little more joyful and instead of layered soundscapes, we have a catchy drum & tambourine combo.
But enough about staying still with your feet on the ground. ‘Young and beautiful’ is a tune that masterfully paints a story with several guitar tracks that linger on, creating an atmospheric feast for the ones longing for space rock.
‘The Wrong Kind’ is a very interesting track. Desperate, longing, guitar in the back, makes me think of the 80s even if there are no 80s elements in there, not like the ones being used by recent acts like Kavinsky or Electric Youth. ‘The Wrong Kind’ is what Tommy Vercetti would listen to on repeat as he drives the streets of Vice City at night. The introspective mood clashing with the pink, mauve and teal neon lights melting with the pastel coloured walls as he drives, thinking about what to do with his empire and what the future holds.
‘I hope you found it’ feels slightly U2-esque and one wonders if it’s on the same vein, as a sort of response to that old classic from The Joshua Tree. The guitar work does feel like it belongs in the same taxon. ‘Desperately seeking’ is a warm trip, like a slightly louder version of American Analog Set, with rich atmospheric swells that are always on the back, like the odd waterfall lurking in forests.
There are two extra tracks in this release (sadly, a digital only.) ‘Leave me falling’ is pop candor and ‘Set you free’ is a pacier cousin of ‘Desperately seeking’, happily wearing the same swanky clothes.
Look, there might be several comparisons to other bands in this review, something that rarely is allowed in this Shithole of a Website (TM) called Sloucher and it’s because this is a great album, not much as been written about the vast spectrum of genres that Jeff Garber can weave into sonic quilts. All those years grinding the stone with networks and films sure helped National Skyline find a vein to tap for pop richness and if Love letters for the disenchanted is any indication of the future of National Skyline, I think they just hit the motherload.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López
Fancy reading about The Joy Circuit? Sure you do.