Icky Blossoms - Mask - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Icky Blossoms - Mask

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:8.5 Release Date:2015-05-12

First things first: this album is good, like a bag of your favorite candy, except you can eat the candy again and again guilt-free. Each song is a unique, tasty little confection, and the all-too-brief album moves fast, a speedy little coupe zipping past and clearly breaking the speed limit. Hop on for a ride, won't you? But beware, this album has more hooks than a tackle box, and once it lodges itself in your brain, it ain't comin out.

One of the most amazing things about this album is that every track is entirely distinct, with its own clear personality. There's no confusing one song for another, no undifferentiated mass. There's an uncommon kind of precision craftsmanship on display, and the band effortlessly moves from strength to strength, doing whatever they want and doing it well. It's also obvious they've matured significantly from their first album, with noticeably better songwriting.

Mask leads with 'In Folds', a shot of power synths that transitions into a more varied mix of guitars and keys, and features vocals from both Sarah Bohling and Derek Pressnall, whose harmonies compliment each other better than peanut butter and chocolate.

'Phantasmargoria' is pure power-pop, by turns noisy and reflective, with the perfect chorus lyric: "Bang bang bang in my head so loud/ Keep shakin but I can't get it out." Yes, it's like that.

'Living in Fiction' is a glittering, propulsive song driven by rock-solid synth-bass and punctuated by delightfully whiney guitars. Bohling croons her way through the verses and is joined by Pressnall in the choruses, which are backed by high-pitched, stringy synths.

The album takes a semi-goofy turn with the inscrutable 'Away From You', a thoughtful quasi-ballad marked by some almost hip-hop instrumentation and vocal choices (eg, "Woof!") that somehow work perfectly. The minor key melody is delicate and wobbly, and the closing lyrics ("Let's get together, there's no afterlife") are just as strange-yet-appropriate as everything else in the song.

That's followed by the actual ballad, 'Want You So Bad', a mournful tune of mostly sparse, shoegazy guitar riffs, staccato synth bass, and exquisite emotional peaks defined by echoey high strings. The second half of the tune adds in a popping synth countermelody that helps the song build to a crescendo before vanishing.

Up next is the deceptively simple-at-first 'The Spiral', with basic percussion, bass, and Bohling's voice opening the song. It plays around, hinting at its genius for a while before the brilliant finale; a room full of pattering, pounding drums, and a guitar stumbling through the crowd, trying to escape, the musical embodiment of Bohling's lyrics: "I get so trapped in my head sometimes."

After all these variations and conceits, they throw 'Wait' in your face, an uptempo, bouncing piece of joy that's somehow also absolutely heartwrenching, as they sing of running away from everything together and the guitar jangles its way across the surface. At this point the band has rocked it every which way and is a perfect seven for seven.

The only things that mar what would otherwise be a flawless set are the last two songs, where the band stumbles just a bit. The primary problem is that after having so much fun, they suddenly sound serious and even angry. 

'Silver Tongue' is all yelling angst, grimey guitars, and booming synths. Still, even this song started to grow on me, and its spooky chorus latched into my brain with all the others eventually. 'Terror Nothing' is worse, though, just too noisy and pounding, such that it breaks the vibe of what's come before.

It's a damn shame the album ends on a less-than-stellar pair of songs, as it's otherwise amazingly good. Even with those last two tracks, it's still the best album I've heard this year, and will be a blast of semi-nostalgic happiness for many. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better variety of well done songs on a single release. Run, don't walk, to your online retailer for this gem.

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