Album Review | “Are You Free” by Crash City Saints

– by Camille Banzon, Music Editor –

The band, Crash City Saints, has been around a while, and the ambient rock trio from Kalamazoo, Michigan hard sealed their comeback in the shoegaze scene with their 12-track release, “Are You Free” through Saint Marie Records, the same record company who helmed Amusement Parks on Fire. The album is the band’s follow-up to 2010’s “Glow In The Dark Music.”

The record opens with “Ice Cream Headache” and “Smile Lines;” both songs waving the shoegaze flag that sets the tone for the entire record. It reminded us of the collective sound of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Oceania,” only subdued-yet-heavier. “Weirdos Need Love Too” is an intermission of ringing sound—and it could very well be the background music for a monologue or a slam poetry session, with a poet softly explaining the need for affection and how everyone should get some too.

Upbeat with a sing-song melody, “Use Once Then Dispose” is a track where the guitars speak more than the vocals. The drums could have been recorded more flawlessly, but maybe the rough edge is part of the aesthetic. The abundance of distortion is overwhelming, but truly satisfying if you’re into hard gaze. The fairy-like ethereal piano sections add a pinch of glitter dust onto the dark number.

“Spirit Photography” is an ode to earlier shoegaze like Pavement and Slowdive, and even bordering on softer industrial sounds, like Nine Inch Nails on valium. In this song, the guitars wail out a story in the end, taking listeners into a labyrinth of screech and distortion.

“Act 2” could mean that it’s the introduction for the second half of the album. The influence of Kevin Shields and MBV in general is pretty evident here. From the lull and pauses of the vocals to the overall guitar sound, it’s obvious that the band is heavily influenced by the man’s work. At this point, the album’s narrative took shape as a story of a teenager growing up in the 90’s listening to bands like Smashing Pumpkins, MBV, and the like. Even the album title is fitting, as this is the time when we ask all sorts of existential questions to ourselves and our peers, and the curiosity is magnified by listening to this kind of music.

“A Dawn of A Bright New Nothing” is more acoustic with its elements. It brings in less distortion, but a lot of layered vocals and hums. The drumbeat is meant to make listeners bob their heads, and it’s tiny detail that I, as a listener, appreciate at this point. Even the hook is great. Easily the best song in the album, and it features Simon Raymonde of Cocteau Twins.

“It’s Not A Party Until Someone Breaks Your Heart,” another instrumental, is more upbeat and shorter. It’s a refreshing break from the heaviness and a good introduction to “The Hour of the Wolf,” a wonderfully diverse track that has that 80’s guitar element that can either make you dance, or stare at the floor with your head down.

Like other modern versions of old genres, current shoegaze is still going back to what’s famous in the late 80’s and 90’s. “Are You Free?” is a solid testament of the recurring sound.

Rating: 8 / 10

Our favorite tracks: A Dawn of A Bright New Nothing, The Hour of the Wolf

Pre-order “Are You Free?” via Saint Marie Records here.

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Camille Banzon is the music editor of The Violet Wave. After years of covering music festivals, concerts and reviewing albums, she decided to move to a tropical surf island, where she runs a hostel and lives off of coconuts, bikinis, and streaming. Her work on music writing can be seen in FHM Philippines, Pacifiqa, Coconuts Manila, 8list, and Amplify.ph. She likes groovy basslines, clean waves, and stinky cheese.

Got a song you want us to feature? E-mail Camille at camille@thevioletwave.com.

Twitter: @thevioletwave

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