Art History

California Wives

Vagrant Records, 2012

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Vagrant Records is a label that successfully branched out from releasing primarily punk rock records, and these days, they continue to expose promising young bands, dipping now into the rock/art/pop spectrum. California Wives, who are neither wives nor from California, is yet another potentially big name modern rock outfit, and their first LP my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Art History is a nice stroll through '90 alt-rock influences and '80s New Wave nostalgia.

A very youthful sounding album, Art History immediately radiates breezy, soothing, post adolescent/pre-adulthood fun. The opening track “Blood Red Youth,” with its shimmering guitar work and soft vocals, is a great contemporary take on what the 'college rock' sound used to be. It’s a very strong lead off track, and the formula continues into the very upbeat and synth heavy “Tokyo.” While the first half of the disc relies on gentle drumming and even more gentle singing matched with snippets of synth in between vivid guitars, the second half shows a bit of a shift in that dynamic.

“Purple,” just past the halfway point, is where the band flexes their muscles, injecting a quick paced pop tune that's louder, bolder and more forceful than anything at that point. Near the end we get “Twenty Three,” which reminds me of a sped-up Death Cab For Cutie experimenting with subtle, hazy shoegaze. “The New Process,” the finest track here, opens up like Depeche Mode covering a Pink Floyd song, but deftly moves into dreamy, melodic indie pop. These two tracks work so well together, combining the most addictive moments of soaring, spacey, '80s influenced alt-rock.

Sure, the band may not exactly be breaking new ground here. No new methods of songwriting are explored. Song structure is taken into consideration, as are well-timed melodies. Those looking for the next flavor of the month sub-genre will have to keep looking. California Wives prefers to create feel good music culled from New Wave, post-punk, alt-rock, and dream pop ideas, and I'm quite alright with that.

Rating: B

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© 2013 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Vagrant Records, and is used for informational purposes only.