The Blessed Isles - Straining Hard Against the Strength of Night - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Blessed Isles - Straining Hard Against the Strength of Night

by Jim Harris Rating:7 Release Date:2016-04-29

I’m always more than a little put off by long album titles that strain to be poetic but I got over it and was pleasantly surprised by the Blessed Isles first release.  Their group name has something to do with reincarnation in Greek mythology and this is probably as deliberate as their elongated album title.  (But it’s only rock and roll, isn’t it?)

And pretty solid rock and roll from these guys.  Yes, their primary influence is shoegaze and they do some pretty good reincarnations of primarily M83 and all those more grandiose, shimmery shoegaze bands that evoke soundtracks from John Hughes movies. ( I would prefer they lean more towards sonic collisions like razorblades slashing through asteroids ala early Jesus and Mary Chain, than tugging at the heartstrings of 15-year-old girls…But...) Still the song craft is evident in the opening tracks, ‘Caroline’ and ‘Round and Round’ and they even evoke however slight comparisons to Catherine Wheel on the song, ‘Touch’ (Remember the brilliant song, I want to touch you….) but while their shoegaze attempts seem nicely done and truly peak on the last real song, ‘Winter Moon’ there are couple songs based on pure electronica that fall a little flat for me, as if they are evoking Cut Copy playing New Order.

And up until they seemingly get the right mix in the wispy, androgynous vocals on ‘Winter Moon’ I found the vocals to be just a tad cloyingly sweet amidst the backdrop of shimmering waves of guitars.  With the best track on the album, ‘Winter Moon’ the voice is mixed less with coy sweetness and more in the manner of how Sune Rose Wagner does it with the Raveonettes.  They should stick with this execution.

The Blessed Isles come out of Brooklyn and you expect them to be excellent and they supposedly took five or so years to get this one the way they wanted it, but this one sounds a little over-engineered after a few listens and their reincarnations could use a little less shimmer, and a little more bite.  Still, a strong effort in a lot of ways.  Look forward to their next release to see where they go.

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