When I was a kid I went to a party for a family friend. I distinctly remember a dimly lit basement where silly fifty-year-olds were doing drunk karaoke through funky speakers. Women in dresses were holding each other’s shoulders as they created a human train, embarrassing their kids. Someone was singing off-key. When it was over, I left remembering waving a farewell at my paraplegic cousin and her buck-toothed parents. I can’t remember the night drive or whether I was happy when I slept, but more than a decade later I experienced the nostalgic feeling of that night through new alhambra, the latest release from the Asheville-based Indie group elvis depressedly.
Reeling from a breakup for the first time is difficult, especially for someone who is emotionally intense. It is difficult to cope when all you want is a fair but sad album to be much longer than it is. The childish reels that play through “thou shall not murder” prepare you for an almost abstract sadness where the walls of building vocals make you clasp your ears. It’s not because it sounds awful, rather the voices have an almost taunting quality to them. Stylistically, the vocal effect Mat Cothran uses is something that I do not care for, sometimes ruining songs that could be, by themselves, appealing ambient sequences, complete with violins, guitar, drums, and synths. The end of the track brought me out of the realm of sadness. It seemed like those pesky Minions found their way into the final seconds of the song.
“n.m.s.s.” acoustically feels like a Sun Kil Moon take; it has mildly annoying vocals and low strings. Apart from sounding like E.T. is being sucked into his spacecraft, as does the later track “ease”, the song is more atmospheric. The title track of this record features wavy synths and a mechanical chirping that makes way for one of the structural problems presented. All the sounds are structured so you get vocals separately from more interesting melodies. Not compounding the dull and the eventful hurts the imagination in this album, especially since past Emo acts like American Football have used this compounding to their advantage with twinkly guitars and cried out vocals.
“bruises (amethyst)” and “rock n’ roll” especially evoke nostalgia that lets me retrace my footsteps back to that karaoke night and maybe future karaoke nights, if I ever stumble upon dorky people that do such things. With a drunk pessimism that young adult novelists have when typing out their smoking pixie chick, the latter track has a clacking and windy synth that pulls you up a cliff to watch sundown. It’s kind of like that scene in the last season of The Sopranos where Tony gets high and spreads his arms out while realizing something about mortality. Instantly catchy and drenched in a higher fidelity compared to past elvis depressedly releases, “rock n’ roll” is a favourite of mine.
“ease” takes on distortion that pierces beyond a paper-thin wall. You could knock and knock but your neighbour won’t shut up. With an Eeyore-like despair, you play the synth while tiredly singing, whilst another neighbour beyond the wall plays their drums as softly as possible. This take on drumming bothers me, too. “new heaven, new earth” might as well be labelled a long-lost Placebo track. It’s good, following the recommendation of compounding sounds.
new alhambra is the kind of sad where you lay on your side by the bed and watch flies dodge near-death. It’s too bad that the following of conventions, whether it be through structure or song length, ruin what could’ve been a more than satisfactory release.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.