Adult Contemporaries

Ablebody

Lolipop Records, 2016

http://ablebody.bandcamp.com

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/14/2017

After being touring members of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and forming the shoegaze outfit The Depreciation Guild, twin brothers guitarist/vocalist Christoph and drummer/vocalist Anton Hochheim have embarked on a new musical journey with their project Ablebody, which now consists of only the two of them. As Ablebody, this Los Angeles-based duo released four EPs in January 2013 but didn’t have any substantial output since then. Adult Contemporaries is not only Ablebody’s first full-length album, but one can also say that it is the duo’s first properly produced work considering the rather casually produced nature of their early EPs.

As suggested by the album title and the cover (which appears as if the brothers are posing for a Style Council album cover), this release embraces the musical and visual aesthetics of ‘80s sophisti-pop genre with its jazz-tinged synth-driven music that balances wistfulness and cheeriness in smooth pop tunes. Adult Contemporaries does not break any new ground. However, in comparison with the many ‘80s pop influenced albums that are being put out there by similarly young bands, this album is certainly one of the better ones of the lot.

Ablebody describe themselves as “students of the past but far from retro fetishists.” For the most part, this statement holds true, but on a few instances maybe not so. For example, the bubbly “Say What You Will” sounds like a cheesy nostalgia trip to the ‘80s with nothing else to offer. Although not a great one, it is not a bad song either; in fact, it is not even bad enough to be worth remembering.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On the other hand, the band punches you in the face with total awesomeness with their kickass interpretation of The Servants song “The Sun, A Small Star.” This song finds them taking a trip to the ‘80s again, but this time it’s with substance, turning a cuddly jangle pop song into an atmospheric shoegaze track with the fervor of Kitchens Of Distinction from their heyday. Speaking of cuddly jangle pop songs, “Marianne” is a beautifully haunting one, where the dreaminess from the Hochheim boys’ shoegazing past perfectly compliments the song’s tender folksiness.

“One Dime A Day” is another track that is only good for bringing retro flashbacks – baggy suits and all, sounding like a dated, totally forgotten run-of-the-mill sophisti-pop song. On the other hand, “Send Me A Letter” (featuring the soulful voice of Canadian balladeer Sean Nicholas Savage) is a sophisti-pop cut that sounds more modern and authentic with its melancholic but warm sound that is such a prominent characteristic of Ablebody’s music.

The Hochheim twins’ sentimentality for the past sounds the coolest on the album opener “Backseat Heart” and closer “Wayside Glow.” “Backseat Heart” feels very stylish and is super catchy with its smooth vocals and dancey New Wave groove created by the pairing of guitar strokes with drums. “Wayside Glow” is a slow and forlorn closing number, consisting of just vocals and synths. Combined together, they form a soulfully vulnerable track that although sounds quintessentially “new romantic,” still has a contemporary feel.

The best moments on Adult Contemporaries are the fast-paced guitar-based dream pop cuts “After Hours” and “Gaucho.” “After Hours” is haunting and has an eerie madness to it, and its chorus lyrics “I can’t tell what you represent” are delivered with a frenzied catharsis. “Gaucho,” the album’s fastest number, is like The Kinks and The Smiths combined into one powerful package. The jangly guitars are played with fierce passion and it features a fiery solo that is so antithetical to the mellow suaveness of most of the album.

The brothers Hochheim are certainly no retro fetishists. Their nostalgia trips do more service to the songs than the other way round. Even though Adult Contemporaries likes to cling sentimentally onto its ‘80s-accented garb, it still looks classy and fresh.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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