Review Summary: Originality is overrated.
We music devotees spend far too much time arguing over artistic integrity purely based on arbitrary claims of "originality", as if it’s the end all be all to a much larger discussion. In an age where the standard music taste is drastically beginning to widen and widen, genres are beginning to spill into one another like the brush of a surrealist painter, and tiny micro-evolutions/niches in sound pop-up every year (thank you internet culture!), unclassifiability and anti-consensus rule. So why is there such a cold shoulder to those who enjoy updated sounds from the past? This question instantly popped into my head upon listening to Maston's debut album, as images of psychedelic's late 60s blossom began to float through my ears and into my head (while the sound was still relatively cute and innocent sounding, just before it got all blown up and over-saturated by whirling guitar-on-fire solos).
Opening with a choppy organ line and a vintage set of dusty baroque instrumentation emulating 60s suburban drive-in film credits, Shadows wastes no time in taking us back to the past with a sugary, flamboyant gesture on the opener “Strange Rituals”. A mix of Pet Sounds sunshine, thick Sgt. Pepper sky, and twirling Binki Bottom clouds dissolve into "(You Were) in Love", a surfy polka dot pill ensuring a short but heavenly trip through a whimsical rainbow. The trip gets a little cloudy on "Messages", a suspenseful Apocalypse Now gun slingin' sunset pop crooner lost in a pitch black silhouette. Meanwhile the hazy pop nugget "Looks" sways around in a moody diner, somewhere out in the mountains. Like a smoggy daydream waterfall, "Young Hearts" pours out a misty up-tempo psych hook, elegant pop evaporation like Bradford Cox crooning under a Beach Boys single.
Further evidence of Maston's modern influence point to the absolutely gorgeous "Judge Alabaster", guided by banging percussion like a horse sprinting off in the distance, with a lush americana harmony floating in the wind, similar to the folky atmospheres of Grizzly Bear. So once again I ask the question, why such a cold shoulder to those who enjoy updated sounds from the past? Clearly Maston borrow heavily from the pop sonics of The Beach Boys and The Beatles in order to create a retro-esque vibe splattered throughout the album, but carefully injected into their nostalgic world is appropriate modern influence, tropical exotica-laced hi-fi, lush instrumentals worthy of film-score, and irresistible, catchy hooks. It's a short burst of ten infectious, ultra-nostalgic pop songs that rarely pass the three minute mark, but no matter if recorded in 1967 or 2013, Shadows makes for some damn fine pop music in any generation.